| 7.6°C Dublin

Paddy Cullivan: Irish junk food is the best in the world... just don't eat the wrong kind of crisps


Amy McCosker serves us at Simply Crispy.

Amy McCosker serves us at Simply Crispy.

Tayto crisps.

Tayto crisps.


Amy McCosker serves us at Simply Crispy.

The opening of a pop-up crisp sandwich cafe in Belfast, named Simply Crispy, is being seen as a victory for what many refer to as 'junk food'.

I'm having none of it. Our wonderful Irish snack food is something to be immensely proud of and Simply Crispy's mooted foray south of the border is to be welcomed, for reasons gastronomic, economic and, indeed, patriotic.

Before you think I've gone overboard, here's a fact I found on the Internet: "There is as much Vitamin C in a packet of crisps as there is in an Orange".

OK. Maybe there isn't. But who cares? We in the South make the greatest crisps in the world.

In fact, Ireland has a ridiculous array of 'junk foods' that are lovingly remembered and sought-after from Queens to Queensland.

Tayto and King Crisps. Snack bars of a pink, yellow and purple variety. Jaffa Cakes. Spice Burgers. TK Red Lemonade. Supermacs' Snack Boxes and the once ubiquitous Breakfast Roll, a truly Irish take on what to do with a French baguette - just stuff it full of things you'd have in a fry. So too with the crisp sandwich: would you like some carbs with your carbs? And yet, were you to use freshly-baked Irish batch bread and only the finest cheese and onion Tayto crisps, I think it would be impossible for someone not to get teary-eyed at the taste.


I often wonder at how we came to invent such things. As Jonathan Swift said: "'Twas a bold man that first ate an oyster".

Indeed, but I'd like to give a medal to the first man who looked at a lobster and said: "Mmmm...that giant scorpion of the sea looks tasty".

Who first thought of putting crisps between two slices of white bread? I blame drink.

Only a severely hungover person could have reached into their fridge and, seeing they had no other sandwich filling, decided to make a crisp sandwich.

With butter, and tea, with milk and sugar, because all those things so obviously go together.

You may have seen those high-end cookbooks which recommended that lots of preparation is needed to flavour some classic French dish or other.

We Irish have bypassed all that, everything you need to make our national dish can be purchased in a poorly supplied newsagent on a Sunday morning.

We do it because the Irish have no time for preparation, instant gratification is our raison d'etre. It's why the place is such a mess, but also why visitors love it - we are completely irresponsible as a race and hate doing anything by the rules.

I recently joked with a publican friend of mine (who also doesn't drink) that all we needed to do as a country was stop drinking for one year and everything from personal debt to the health service would be sorted out.

He said: "Yes. But I'm a publican and I'd be out of business".

In the same way we spend millions warning people about healthy food and the dangers of obesity we also love and personally advertise our junk foods with pride.

I remember growing up when plucky little Cavan even had it's own 'Cavan Cola' in response to the soft-drinks giants.


We always felt great buying it. It fulfilled some patriotic instinct even though it was more like melted Mr Freeze than the Real Thing.

This patriotism carries on among the diaspora around the world, all mad to get their hands on the taste of home, even if they live next door to the most beautiful raw-food health emporium in their adopted home.

And, as a 36-county Republican (I believe there's four counties in Scotland that should be ours too), my joy at the idea of cross-border crisp sandwich cafes knows no bounds.

I will excitedly go to the Dublin branch of Simply Crispy, if it transpires.

Unless they use the inferior, imposter northern Tayto that came about during the Great Tayto Split of 1956 and which is manufactured in a made-up place called 'Tayto Castle' in Tandragee.

Only southern Tayto will do - but we don't want another civil war on our hands.

In the meantime, here's to Irish 'junk food' - the best in the world.