Repulsive, depraved and oddly political: Monster Munch crisps reviewed

6 June 2020

9:00 AM

6 June 2020

9:00 AM

Now that I have considered Monster Munch I decide to eat one mindfully. I put it in my mouth, and it is as if I can taste it for the first time. It is repulsive, and I feel cheated.

This is, then, an intervention. My husband wrote in these pages that I am always watching Spooks and eating Monster Munch. It was a giggle that went on for 400 words but is eating Monster Munch really so depraved? Doesn’t Jay Rayner eat Skips in the darkness when he is alone? Didn’t A.A. Gill eat Frazzles? I know I do, but only when I am depressed — which is quite often these days — and then I wish I hadn’t.

I could say I do it for the metaphor. I will do almost anything for metaphor, and the Walkers Monster Munch Pickled Onion — I won’t touch Roast Beef or Flamin’ Hot, I am not a monster — is such a good one, I wonder if it is deliberate. Who doesn’t want to consume a monster? Who doesn’t have one nestling inside them anyway, whispering half-lies under their conscious mind?

The monster is apparently feet, so it is a bag of feet, which doesn’t sound so good: I ate the feet of a monster. This was confirmed by Walkers in the 1970s, in a small footnote to food history I found on the internet, which was confirmed by the bag, or artefact: ‘Miniature Monsters with big crispy heads? Or crunchy claws plucked straight from pickled onion beasts? Nibble the sides or stick your tongue through the hole and let it melt in all its oniony, vinegary glory.’

The internet is fascinating: unfiltered voices. People ask questions and Google answers them. The questions are pleading and desolate. They amount, through repetition, to minor tragedy: ‘Are Monster Munch healthy?’ ‘Are Monster Munch made from potatoes?’ ‘Are Monster Munch good for you?’ And, as if asking for tenderness from a narcissist, the answer to everything is no.

They are hard to eat. I give them that. So the metaphor in my mouth continues. It isn’t easy to eat a dragon; it shouldn’t be. They will, if you have a ‘grab bag’ — a fine piece of marketing evil, for it insinuates the idea that eating corn snacks is something jaunty, an act of pre–exercise, as if you grab your grab bag and then do 600 press-ups and rise to meet the sun, rather than dying in a puddle of your own fat — strip the skin off the roof of your mouth and leave the flesh behind it hot and raw. As pudding, you can eat your own skin. When some of the corn snacks fall to the floor the dog sniffs, mildly interested, then walks away. Even the dog won’t eat them. And he eats poo.

I wonder if I do it to feel alive. It is a deadening time, pandemic — fear and fire — and what makes you feel more alive than maiming yourself, and swallowing your own skin in a socially sanctioned ritual named as ‘snacking’? But if it makes you feel alive, it also makes you feel dead. A drug, then, a low-grade, lurid, easily available late-capitalist drug in the shape of a fictional monster’s stinking foot. Trust me, stick with the opiates, if you can take the comedown. Morphine is what you need now; you can follow the tiny lines of your dreams. Monster Munch, on reflection, just isn’t the same.

More (late) Monster Munch information. They used to be called the Prime Monster. So in 1977, when invented, this snack — it is absolutely not a crisp — was a political attack on James Callaghan. This makes me wonder if, alongside raising Donald Trump in a nappy balloon, activists would like to eat feet-shaped snacks imagined to be attached, in life, to their preferred nemesis of the week. It would be pleasingly meaningless.

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