Introduction: Doesn’t it seem like junk food has gone particularly crazy lately? We’ve got bags of Bugles that taste just like caramel corn, fast-food tacos that use a giant nacho cheese Dorito as a shell, cheeseburgers that use grilled cheese sandwiches in place of buns, and vanilla ice cream sundaes studded with bacon. And now (finally!), there’s this: Lay’s potato chips that taste like a bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich.
My expectations weren’t high. My snacking career began in the 1980s, when our flavor options were few: Things either tasted like barbecue, or they tasted like nachos. Until the advent of Cool Ranch Doritos (and the immediate division in the school cafeteria between the haves and have-nots), those were your options. Anything more ambitious or complicated in the flavor department failed miserably, and wound up tasting mostly like an exhaled burp.
Since then, something has changed. Food scientists worldwide have gotten much more aggressive, getting in your face and daring you to try their outlandish new chemical flavors. Now, potato chips miraculously manage to taste like both buffalo wings AND bleu cheese, or to somehow duplicate the multilayered flavors of an entire loaded baked potato. The Lay’s BLT Potato Chips are no different, as I learned after my first bag. Instead of being awash in synthetic bacon flavor, it seemed like I was able to make out the distinct bacon, lettuce, and tomato seasonings on each chip. I became immediately convinced that I was tasting the pinnacle of laboratory flavor technology, that even without the bag’s giant photograph of a sandwich to let me know what I was supposed to be tasting, my brain would be completely fooled into thinking that I was eating not potato chips, but a real, honest-to-goodness bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich.
If this was true, if the good people at Lay’s had managed to make a convincing bacon, lettuce, and tomato-flavored chip, shouldn’t I be able to substitute them for actual bacon, lettuce, and tomato in a sandwich?
The BLT-Flavored Lay’s Potato Chip BLT
Ingredients: Sliced oatmeal bread, a tablespoon of Hellmann’s mayonnaise, and a handful of Lay’s “BLT” flavored potato chips.
Expectations: According to the bag, Lay’s BLT potato chips “Start[s] with farm-grown potatoes,” as I’m almost certain nearly all potatoes do, “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.” It’s beautiful language for what looks, essentially, like a sour cream and onion potato chip. On bread. With mayonnaise. Expectations were low.
Tasting/Preparation Notes: I don’t add potato chips to my sandwiches, normally. And I’ve certainly never made a sandwich that was ALL potato chips. The resulting sandwich wasn’t half bad, with tons of crunch and a pleasant textural contrast between the soft packaged bread and the crisp potato chips. The chips tasted different as an ingredient in the sandwich, than they did on their own; I was able to detect a faint bacon flavor, and a “tartness” that I suppose you could associate with tomato flavoring, but that was about it. I imagine that if I had really hit rock-bottom, I could eat this sandwich again, and manage to convince myself it was a BLT, but it seems like that kind of effort would be better spent trying to find gainful employment, or break my debilitating addiction to bathsalts.
The Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato BLT on Toasted Sourdough
Ingredients: Sliced sourdough bread, lightly toasted, a tablespoon of Hellmann’s mayonnaise, two slices of tomatoes, a slice of lettuce, and three strips of Oscar Mayer “Super Thick Cut” bacon, cooked in a skillet.
Expectations: It’s tough for me to get worked up about lettuce and off-season tomato, but holy Hannah, this bacon is insane. Each strip is about the thickness of three or four “regular” strips of bacon. Eating a BLT made with this bacon would be like eating a burnt pork chop sandwich. Needless to say, expectations were high.
Tasting/Preparation Notes: As expected, the meaty crunch of the thick-sliced bacon was intense. The juice from the tomatoes mixed with the mayonnaise, oozing into every nook and cranny in the toasted bread. As it turns out, nothing tastes as much like bacon as actual bacon, in spite of the tireless efforts by the experts at the Lay’s flavor laboratories. The sandwich was outstanding, if a little exhausting; the dense, chewy bread was a lot to get through, and the fat blast from the bacon made me feel a little bit like I had been in a fistfight by the time I finished this sandwich. As an aside, I have only ever been in very gentle, flavorful fistfights. The contrasting flavor, texture, and temperature in the classic version is exactly what you would expect from a well constructed bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich.
Conclusion: Lay’s BLT-Flavored Potato Chips don’t taste the first thing like a BLT.