I'm not sure when, or how it happened, but after eating a packet of Walkers Crisps I was overwhelmed with a dizzying headache.
Now, I'm sure the average crisp packet has a disturbing amount of preservatives, dodgy ingredients and other assorted aritifical flavourings to throw your body into confusion - but these weren't your average crisps. In fact, I was trying to taste Walkers six new trial flavours for this article. The descriptions sounded both weird and wonderful, and I naively thought that some flavours might even taste nice. Needless to say, no packet of crisps should ever make you feel like washing your mouth out a million times over.
By now, most people will have heard about, or tasted these six new flavours. To emphasise the horrifying nature of it all, the flavours are Cajun Squirrel, Crispy Duck, Onion Bhaji, Fish and Chips, Chocolate and Chilli, and Builder's Breakfast. Only the winning flavour will be made a permanent addition to the Walkers line-up, although I certainly can't predict a clear winner at the moment. Although that's only because all six flavours taste so vomit-inducingly awful.
These flavours aren't timeless, like cheese and onion or salt and vinegar. Instead the very names are attention-grabbing, inviting the casual shopper to buy one out of sheer curiosity. With Heston Blumenthal, a chef known for strange concoctions such as bacon ice-cream, judging the entries, it's no wonder the truly bizarre flavours made it through to the final stage.
Call me naive, but for a moment I really did hope that I'd taste the bold flavours of a full English breakfast in Builder's Breakfast or the delectable combination of duck and plum sauce in Crispy Duck. Perhaps I could detect a hint of fleshy bacon and buttered toast in Builder's Breakfast, maybe there'd be a flash of tomato somewhere. Of course, I harboured these delusions until I opened the crisp packet to taste the contents and was firmly jerked back to reality. As apparent from my grumblings above, my experience was less than savoury, to say the least.
In short, Builder's Breakfast tastes like someone has set fire to the fry-up and burnt the pan and spatula along with it. The packet smells like an overcooked meal and the only breakfast-type item I could taste was extremely stale egg. Crispy Duck doesn't taste of succulent duck, more like the side order of potent spring onion which comes with it. Just think of Walkers' normal Cheese and Onion flavour without the cheese and you'll understand. It is guaranteed, like several of the other vile flavours, to give you awful bad breath.
Tasting Chilli and Chocolate was equally a struggle. The chocolate taste manifested itself the moment the flavour hit my tastebuds, but the chilli suddenly mutated, funnily enough, into something resembling cheese and onion. At least chilli and onion didn't make it through to the final round, although given the crazy campaign Walkers has been conducting, maybe I shouldn't speak too soon. Having tasted several chilli and chocolate crisps, I was left feeling as if I had tasted something straight out of a psychedelic, drug-induced, experimental cooking session. To end my gastronomic nightmare, I finished with Fish and Chips and Onion Bhaji, two flavours I thought would taste relatively harmless. Yet Fish and Chips and Onion Bhaji were so salty, I should have saved myself the money by borrowing my housemate's salt and sprinking the entire contents of the shaker into my mouth.
Cajun Squirrel seemed like the wackiest and most disturbing flavour, despite Walkers assertion that no squirrels were harmed in the making of the crisps. I'm not sure what squirrels are meant to taste like, nor do I want to find out, but all I experienced when I opened the pack was a distinct barbecue flavour and something which could have been roadkill. The supposedly dead squirrel, perhaps? This flavour had all the allure of a rotting corpse - or should I say - a rotting squirrel.
I know that this competition is simply a PR exercise for Walkers, who clearly value novelty over quality of flavour. After all, who needs a delicious-tasting product when it's the very concept itself which is its selling point? Reeling from an overload of preservatives and my tastebuds traumatised for the day, I gave the remaining flavours to an inquisitive friend. Don't try these crisps unless you want a truly nauseating experience.