As our national day approaches and the world might have gone green if it weren’t for Covid-19. There is still much to celebrate and food to savour from Ireland. As a country, we have come along way from the humble spud (potato for non-natives). But what is a quintessentially Irish dish? Is it bacon and cabbage or my time-honoured dreaded food Coddle (I mean its boiled sausages for God sake!). Is Boxty the rightful king to the throne? Or maybe its Griddle cake perhaps Soda bread? I do think 99’ers (an ice-cream cone) and club orange certainly have their place in the hall of fame.
I mean we all know what it is to be Irish, that “Irishness” that is just part of our DNA. But what about food? Is there one thing or is it something specific to a generation that conjures up memories of childhood? Would it be more what regions are famous for such as Wexford Strawberries and Clonakilty Pudding? It really is a hard one. There must be something that’s universal to all counties, that is common to multiple generations. I’m sure we all had a packet of Tayto and red lemonade at some point in our lives. I know the famine leads us all back to the potato. It’s an amazing, brilliantly versatile ingredient. There is nothing as comforting as a fried egg on a pile of mashed spuds that have been mixed with butter, a dash of milk and another egg beaten in. Sure that’s a meal and a half! But if you asked an Irish person for a quintessential Irish thing to eat, that you cannot get anywhere else. What would it be?
Although made from potatoes I actually believe that this simple very Irish indulgence of two slices of fresh white bread, butter, a spreading of Mayo (optional) and finally the filling of Tayto Cheese & Onion crisps may, in fact, be the one. No other crisp sandwich will cut it. In fact, I’m starting to think it might need one of those UNESCO certifications as it’s a sandwich of heritage, of hangover mornings, of quick grabs, study binge eating, and of craving pregnant women (in my case). It’s the thing you long for when you’re abroad at some point. Its the packet in the Christmas stocking that you savour with a club orange watching Annie or The Wizard of Oz for the millionth time.
Before they began making other flavours, I remember my brother crushing the bag adding salt & vinegar and then making the sandwich. I still do it instead of buying actual salt and vinegar flavour Tayto when I’m back in Ireland.
Other nations have deserts, bread or hearty stews. Even huge pans of rice & seafood. And yes we do have those things. But if you asked a large portion of Irish people about crisp sandwiches. You would see a certain glimmer in their eye, a curving of the lip into a smile and a longing for that very thing. Indeed, it is still technically a potato in another form I know. But it’s not just the crisp. Its the whole combination of fresh soft Brennans bread covered with butter, topped with possible mayo then filled with Tayto crisps in one delightful soft than crunchy bite. ( I’m drooling just writing it). It has to be Tayto Crisps or it’s just not a crisp sanger. The cheesy onion flavour has the perfect combination of salty savoury crunchiness comfort, cushioned in the softness of the bread and just the perfect amount of silky richness from the fat of the butter and mayo that other crisp sambos just don’t have. Believe me, I’ve tried.
I have just eaten a Tayto crisp sambo thanks to my sisters delivering a 6 pack to me. It was carried like a newborn until delivered into my pantry. Pure heaven along with a big mug of Tea. So as we raise a glass to Irishness and celebrate all the great things about being Irish and Irish food. I feel its only fair to say Thank you, Tayto, for the years of so many comforting moments, of hangovers, cured and hunger abated you have given us as a nation. The Tayto Crisp Sambo is, without doubt, the most quintessentially and uniquely loved Irish sandwich ever. All hail the Tayto Sambo.