Snack serves up unique identity

The Irish and English may have a lot in common, but not when it comes to crisps, writes Dan Buckley

RECENT studies by spoilsport scientists have concluded that the Irish and English are genetically identical. In other words, we all come from the same gene pool, the same family of ancestors and, whether we like it or not, we are not different from one another at all, at all, at all.

Except for the tendency of the Paddies to apply the musical cadences of the mother tongue to soothe the brittle English language, these latter-day soothsayers have concluded that we Irish are really Brits in hobnail boots, as English as a rose garden.

While historians have long held the view that we are mostly descended from different peoples: the Irish from the Celts and the English from the Anglo-Saxons, scientists beg to differ. Geneticists who have tested DNA throughout the British Isles say any such notions of different origins should be thrown in the dustbin of history because their tests prove that both Britain and Ireland have been inhabited for thousands of years by a single people. In other words, Gerry Adams has as much in common genetically with the Queen as he does with Martin McGuinness.

The chances are, though, that those same scientists never applied the Tayto Test.

How else to determine the similarities or otherwise we share with our friends from across the water? This simple investigation can be done by anyone with the help of a willing English friend or relative.

I tried it myself on a work colleague from the south of England who has made Ireland her home. Over the past few years she has pretty much adapted to our way of things. She loves the countryside, takes her labradors for long walks, and has actually begun to enjoy the soft Irish rain. She doesn’t miss the bright lights of London and, in some ways, she is becoming — like the invaders of old — more Irish than the Irish themselves.

But — and this proves beyond doubt that we are no way related — she prefers Walkers Crisps to Taytos. In fact, she will swear that those paper thin slivers she puts in her mouth actually taste nicer than the glorious spud shavings we call Taytos. She even favours salt and vinegar over cheese and onion which, as far as I’m concerned, puts the matter beyond doubt. She and I are different.

So what’s the big deal about a bag of crisps? According to Colin Murphy and Donal O’Dea, co-authors of Stuff Irish People Love, our obsession with such a simple culinary delight is nothing less than a reflection of national pride.

“Put simply, Irish people will tell you that Taytos are the best tasting crisps in the world and will brook no argument on the matter,” they say.

“American crisps, by comparison, are so bland they defy belief, and English crisps taste like deep-fried cardboard. Some have suggested that our love of Tayto is linked with the potato’s place in our history (The Famine, etc) but as they weren’t invented until 1954, this seems unlikely. We also take pride in the fact that Joe ‘Spud’ Murphy, the Tayto company’s founder, also invented the world’s first cheese & onion flavoured crisp.”

Unlike those genetic scientists, Murphy and O’Dea have done their research, even to the extent of highlighting the blissful Tayto sandwich — two slices of heavily buttered sliced pan caressing a pile of Tayto Cheese and Onion crisps and then crunched firmly to permit the full flavour of the ensemble to escape and explode in the mouth.

As they reveal, “when certain foreign supermarkets started operating in Ireland in recent times, instead of Tayto, they stocked some unheard-of cheap crisps from God knows where. They realised soon enough that it wouldn’t matter if they were actually paying people to take them off the shelves, the Irish wanted their Tayto and nothing else. The poor eejits copped on quick enough.”

The Tayto revelation is just part of Murphy and O’Dea’s patriotic endeavours to explain to the rest of the world what makes the Irish so special. Stuff Irish People Love offers a definitive guide to the unique passions of the Paddy.

What other nation can claim, for instance, to understand what ‘the craic’ really means. It is not just a mix of joviality, good company and fine conversation with the drink flowing. Craic is more than the sum of its parts and remains one of the glorious mysteries of Ireland.

Stuff Irish People Love is published by O’Brien Press @ €9.99

SO HOW IRISH ARE YOU?

Take this simple test and find out:

* Do you love the taste of red lemonade. (that’s one for the Corkies, only though).

* Change into your swimming togs under a towel on the beach?

* Like to admire “the grand stretch in the evenings”?

* Wave hello to complete strangers on country roads?

* Use the cupla focal on holidays in Lanzarote?

* Like to go for a few pints after mass?

* Claim a relative who fought in the Easter Rising?

If you have scored five out of seven, congratulations. You are one of us, thanks be to Jaysus….

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