We love potato chips. We love BLTs. Usually we eat our BLTs with a side of chips; sometimes we put the chips in our sandwich, just for a little extra crunch. But what if the sandwich could be put in the chip, instead of the other way around? Lay's helpfully tries to answer that question with its Classic BLT Flavored Potato Chips. “It all starts with farm-grown potatoes,” the bag says, lest you feared the potatoes were grown elsewhere. “Then our chefs add a delicious blend of bacon, ripe tomatoes and cool lettuce to our all-natural seasonings for the classic taste of a fresh-made BLT.” Taking that as a challenge for this Food Fight, we stacked these chips against a bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich from the Village Bakery and Cafe.
The Village Bakery and Cafe is a happy, reliable breakfast and lunch spot for both screenwriters and their laptops and families and their strollers. The BLT comes on sourdough — made in-house, as with all the baked goods and breads — and stuffed with smoked applewood bacon, lettuce and tomato. The sandwich comes with a side salad or cup of soup, and we added a bag of Lay's Original Potato Chips to keep with the theme of this fight. The sandwich itself was pretty much exactly what you would want if you're in the mood for a BLT: mayonnaise generously slathered on warm, toasted sourdough with crispy bacon and fresh lettuce and tomatoes.
We next turned to Lay's Classic BLT potato chips. And were surprised. Suddenly, we understood the wonder Violet Beauregarde may have experienced as she chomped her way through the flavors of tomato soup, roast beef and blueberry pie in Willy Wonka's three-course chewing gum. The tomato probably was most prominent, followed by a note of sour cream that was somewhat mayonnaise-like. Adding to the tomato and sour cream/mayonnaise was the taste of bacon, then a very faint touch of the lettuce.
Overall, these chips do taste quite remarkably like something resembling a BLT. Curious, we took a look at the list of ingredients: Among other entries, there's an ambiguous “BLT Seasoning,” tomato powder, “Natural Bacon Type Flavor” and “Natural Lettuce Type Flavor,” all of which combine to create this BLT Type flavor. And that is why, perhaps, the chips ultimately don't quite work: No matter how much you may want to buy into the idea that a sandwich can be reduced to a variety of potato chip, the chips off the old block just aren't a match for the old block. Impersonation only goes so far. Indeed, the resemblance, however striking, is passing at best; about halfway through the bag, they tasted less like a BLT and more like oddly seasoned potato chips. We wanted a regular BLT, a side of plain chips and a reprint of The New Yorker's article on flavor factories instead.
The win, then, goes to the Village Bakery & Cafe. And to all BLTs in their original, unchipped forms.
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