Experiments In Eating: Seabrook Fire Eaters

Will the Trinidad Scorpion Chilli flavoured crisps live up to the warning/guarantee of the packaging? Let’s find out.

As regular Reprobate readers will know by now, I am a sucker for both novelty flavours and hot food, and fortunately for me these two things often go hand-in-hand. Upon a visit to Lidl recently, my eye was caught by Seabrook’s new Fire Eaters range of crisps and I decided that these would have to be explored further. In retrospect, this might have been a mistake.

When I was a kid, the only place that you ever saw Seabrook crisps was at the swimming baths, where their sometimes eccentric flavours like Fish and Chips would twinkle at you from vending machines, taunting you with their unfamiliarity. I’ll be honest with you – I didn’t much care for them at the time. But that was in the dim and distant past. I’m not one to bear grudges – not against crisp manufacturers anyway.

The Fire Eaters certainly tick the box in terms of presentation, what with a skull and crossbones – or, more accurately, cross flaming torches – prominently featured. There are three flavours – Chilli and Lemon, which was unavailable at the point of purchase, Smokehouse Cayenne and the one I went for, Trinidad Scorpion Chilli. Well, of course I did – unlike the other two, this comes in a black package (and we all know that black packaging is a code for something being entirely beyond the pale in terms of heat) and a warning label. Who could resist that?

A spot of research reveals that Trinidad Scorpion Peppers are a notorious Caribbean chilli that sits at 300,000+ Scoville Heat Units. That means, to the uninitiated, that it is around the same heat as a habanero pepper, which is certainly hot – but not deadly. However, there are also variations on the Scorpion pepper that reach 1.4 million and even 2 million Scoville Heat Units, hot enough to kill you if you so much as look at it for too long. The ingredients for the Fire Eaters do not specify which of these variations is used here, but I’m going to guess it was the lowest one. However, there is also cayenne, habanero and bird’s eye chilli powder thrown into the mix, creating a veritable orgy of hot spices.

The crisps themselves are ribbed – for her pleasure – and reasonably chunky and, yes, crispy. Some of you may have noted that ‘Trinidad Scorpion Chilli’ is not actually a flavour and my immediate thought on eating one was that it didn’t taste of anything – potato, I guess, but not anything that immediately hits you as a taste sensation. But they are not unpleasant, at least not at first. However, there is something else that doesn’t immediately hit you and that’s the heat. It takes a few moments, by which time – if you are like me – you will have gobbled down a handful of the crisps. And then it begins.

There is a fine line between scorchingly delightful and scorchingly brutal, and it may well be that the Fire Eater crosses it. This has an after-burn that is quite savage. There is no tingle here, just full-on burning of the mouth and throat. The package advises you to have a glass of milk on hand, which I’d assumed was just hype – but it’s probably good advice.

You are not going to want to wolf down a full sharing pack of these in one go and so in that sense, these are both value for money and a healthy eating option (don’t quote me on that latter claim). No doubt some people will consume them in that way as some sort of macho challenge, possibly while being filmed for YouTube – and I can’t imagine that it would do you any lasting damage if you did, especially as you’d probably already be someway down the evolutionary scale. The more sadistic amongst you might also get some entertainment value from offering one to an unsuspecting friend and watching their reaction.

Do I recommend them, though? I’m really not sure. In the hit and miss world of the novelty crisp, they are certainly more memorable and distinctive than most and I’m curious to try the other flavours to see how less brutal versions work. But I’m not especially interested in my snacks being an endurance test and so I probably won’t be adding these to the weekly shop.

DAVID FLINT

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