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Lay's Taste (Test) of America

I Ate Oklahoma is brought to you in part by:

Once a year, the good people at the Frito-Lay Corporation ask themselves a very big question: What Does America Taste Like? 

Is it this?

Or does America taste like this?

Sorry, folks. We're still waiting on Ricky Bobby spice chips. 

No, this year, America tastes like a bunch of weird regional favorites that Lay's Taste of America chips tried in vain to replicate, including:

- Cajun Spice

- Chile Con Queso

- Chesapeake Bay Crab Spice

- Deep Dish Pizza

- Fried Pickles with Ranch

- New England Lobster Roll

- Pimento Cheese

- Thai Sweet Chili

Fun fact: Do you know how hard it is to get all of these chips? I had to order the majority of them and then scour grocery store shelves for the rest. Was I successful? Not even a little! So I can’t say this is a review of all the chips, because I couldn’t get all the chips. In fact, I actually ended up with some 2017 chips (are they still making them or did I just buy old chips?) in our taste test.

This tasting is so far from scientific that it might as well be magic. I enlisted the help of my new Oklahoma Today co-workers to figure out if these were actually any good.

First up, I poured the chips into piles and had everyone taste them and guess what flavor they were supposed to be. This was the best idea I’ve ever had, it turns out, because they gave me pure gold.

Next are my thoughts on the chips, knowing full well what they are, because somebody ought to.

1. Lobster Roll

Them: Three separate people guessed this one was sour cream and onion, which baffles me, because not only is that absolutely not one of the Taste of America chips, it’s already a very popular flavor. I mean, I know they were trying to guess what it tasted like, but I just thought it was funny they guessed an already existent chip. Two other guesses were in the same vein: “???” and “IDFK.” How these taste like the International Defense Fund of Kangaroos, I don’t know, but that’s what they said.

Me: But then you taste them and you’re like, “Yeah, I guess they just made sour cream and onion again, but with less flavor.” I get a kind of buttery flavor, which I associate with lobster rolls, but not nearly enough that I would guess lobster.

2. Cajun Spice

Them: This was an even more divergent category. There was another “???” and a different “I don’t know,” but other guesses included buffalo wings, tomato basil and sausage, which still makes me laugh reading it. It’s not that sausage-flavored chips would be bad, I just think it’s inherently funny to have a bag of chips simply labeled “Sausage.”

Me: I do get a bit of tomato before there’s a tingle of indiscriminate spice. That said, if you stuff these in your mouth like an animal (can’t tell you how I figured this out) the spice reaches a tipping point and they actually taste Cajun in the sense that Cajun food often has overwhelming spice. (P.S. for good cajun chips, locate some Zapp's.)

3. Fried Pickles with Ranch

Them: When I told Camille what this one was, she was visibly upset. She had been looking for these chips, she said, and now she had tried them and was NOT a fan. Her guess: “gross/sauerkraut,” while other wagered they might be herb-roasted chicken, “bland,” baked potato and “nasty.” You know people would buy “Nasty” chips, though, right? And I guess they did.

Me: These taste a little like dill. A little. But then they fade away immediately and leave behind a dishwater-esque aftertaste that no one but dishwater enthusiasts will enjoy.

4. Chesapeake Bay Crab Spice

Them: People were really split on this one. Some weighed in with simply “cheese” or “smokey barbecue,” while others thought this might be jalapeno popper. My favorite response, however was “Who knows, but good” which is about as accurate a description of potato chip flavors as I’ve ever heard. I like lots of chips, but if I’m honest, they rarely taste anything like the flavors they claim to emulate.

Me: I like them. I actually like them a lot. They’re basically Old Bay flavored, which is exactly what I think of when I imagine a crab boil. I would buy these again.

5. Pimento Cheese

Them: This was, by far, the best-guessed chip, possibly because of the simplicity of the flavors. Most guessed some variation of cheese, cheddar cheese, smoked gouda and cheese and sour cream. Only one person ventured far afield with “loaded potato,” but to be fair, a lot of loaded potatoes taste like cheese and sour cream.

Me: Immediate hit of cheese, mixed with...something. I can see why they were so confused. It’s not cheddar. It’s not gouda. It’s definitely not pimento peppers mixed with mayonnaise and chipped cheese. It’s okay, but nowhere near as good as an actual pimento cheese sandwich.

6. West Coast Truffle Fries

Them: Two people were right on and guessed truffle fries, possibly because these chips have already been in circulation or maybe because truffle oil is such a singular flavor. Others thought it might be garlic parmesan, bacon and Brussels sprouts (I’d eat that chip) and one actually thought this was the fried pickles.

Me: If you love truffle oil, you will like these chips. If you hate truffle oil, you will not like these chips. There’s some salt and other seasonings hiding in there, but the flavor really begins and ends with mushroom oil.

7. Bacon-Wrapped Jalapeno Popper

Them: Second only to Fried Pickles and Ranch, Bacon Jalapeno Popper had some real detractors. Guesses went from kind, like “kielbasa” or “salami” to “vinegar,” “NO” and simply “Butt.” Truthfully, I bet Frito-Lay is working on a butt-flavored chip, but you know it’s only going to be available in Japan.

Me: I don’t know exactly what “butt” tastes like, but I wouldn’t be shocked if this was it. The bacon is very chemical. The jalapeno is musty. These are gross and I feel bad for anyone who eats one of these and then decides not to eat jalapeno poppers because they think this is what they’ll taste like. These chips can kick rocks.

Buy: Cajun Spice, Crab Spice

Meh: Truffle Fries, Pimento Cheese, Lobster Roll

AVOID AT ALL COSTS: Fried Pickles and Ranch, Bacon-Wrapped Jalapeno Poopers

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About the Author

Founder and Eater-in-Chief of I Ate Oklahoma, Greg Elwell has been reviewing restaurants and writing about Oklahoma’s food culture for more than a decade. Where a normal person orders one meal, this guy gets three. He is almost certainly going to die young and those who love him most are fairly ambivalent about it. You can email Greg at greg@iateoklahoma.com.

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