Thursday 27 April 2023

Slabs Slightly Sea Salted

Crisps? I've known a few. Nobbly, straight cut, crinkle cut, square cut, puffed up, claw shaped, ring shaped, hand cooked, slow baked, quick fried and countless more. The thing is, I'd probably tasted all of these by the age of eight. So, when it came to new crisp adventures, was British Crisps to be forever stuck going round a ring road paved with the same old potatoes? Sure, new flavours have always been plentiful. But what about a a texture which put on my indicators and took me somewhere new? Well, I've finally found it in Slabs Slightly Sea Salted.

When I started British Crisps, I was swamped with suggestions of crisps which I simply had to investigate. One of these suggestions was from an old and trusted Twitter friend who, with a knowing confidence, said "Slabs. That's all I say." But what were Slabs? This name meant nothing to me. Thankfully, there's this little thing called the internet, and it quickly filled me in. Slabs were launched by Great Food Affairs, a Cheshire based crisp manufacturer launched 25 years ago by Beege Bourne.

Slabs, which pride themselves on using less fat and salt than other crisps, can be found in a range of flavours. But there's one very important factor I've failed to fill you in on: the thickness. Yes, Slabs by name and, yep, slabs by nature. According to Slabs, they're four times the thickness of your standard crisp. Yes, that's F-O-U-R (4). Not twice, not thrice, but, uh, fourice? Anyway, it was enough to get my salivary glands pumping like a water mill after a monsoon. All I had to do was find some Slabs. Sadly, I couldn't. For several weeks. Then, in a garden centre, I stumbled across three varieties at once.

I decided to bring the Slighty Sea Salted flavour to you first as not only is it the simplest candidate to define Slabs' ethos, but I also haven't opened the other varieties yet. So, here I am with the packet between my hands, and what a cracking packet it is to handle. With a thick plastic wrapping, it's all about the big, the bold and the beautiful. An intense pillar box red colours the body and instantly fixes the attention. The text, meanwhile, is wonderfully blunt and to the point: THICK AND BIG. This alone would tell you what to expect, but Slabs have another trick up their sleeve.

In a move which takes you back a few decades, you can ACTUALLY SEE THE CRISPS inside the packet. And why not? If you've got it, flaunt it. And, even from a distance, these crisps stand out as the big boys. These are beefcakes, proper steroid enhance beefcakes. I haven't even opened the packet yet, but I know I'm on the edge of something special. Even though the memories are long gone, there are echoes of what it must have been like when I first encountered Monster Munch back in the mid-80s, peering at the promise of those shapes through the plastic window, wondering and dreaming.

And then, after bracing myself, I opened the packet. You know that odd, otherworldly tingle you get before something extraordinary happens to you? That's exactly what I'm getting at this point. The aroma is one of potato and salt. Again, simple, but effective, calling out to a primitive need to enhance something basic. Was I regressing? No, of course not, Slabs are only taking you forwards. So, into the bag to see if they could deliver on their early promise.

There's no denying it, Slabs are slabs. They're endowed with a pleasing weight and, while they're greasy between the fingers, the amazing golden tinge that colours them only heightens the anticipation. The thickness, too, is dazzling. Imagine, for example, a Real McCoy's crisp, but with all the furrows filled in. Then another layer on top of that. And, just for good measure, an extra layer strapped on top to hold it all together. Never have I encountered such decadence in such brazen girth.

And does this thickness translate into a sublime crunch? Of course it does, although it certainly feels like uncharted territory for the teeth. There's an unusual resistance due to the sheer distance and force that's required to crunch, but it's an entertaining obstacle. In terms of auditory pleasures, it's a big solid crack, much like that of a branch cracking in a tree. If you look at what you've bitten into, it's equally intriguing. It's almost as if it's a sedimentary rock, made up of multiple layers of thin potato slices. But this is much more fun than any geology lesson.

So, flavour, the final part of the puzzle? Yes, it's flavoured, flavoured well. There's no provenance for the ingredients, but the potatoes are solid and the salt salty. The olive oil used in the cooking process also brings a nice Mediterranean edge to the flavours unfolding in your mouth. Perhaps, despite the healthy claims, the olive oil is over done, hence the greasy fingers. But Slabs are there, in my opinion to be indulgent and they're incredibly addictive. These Slightly Sea Salted Slabs are a simple thing done very well, and I will be returning to them time and time again.

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