I am going through an obsessive phase of Pringles. I bought my first tube on impulse a year ago in a little shop in the Monts d'Arrée as I drove back from Quimper. I have a strange history with the crisp: as a child I used to save up and buy small cardboard boxes of Chipples salted potato sticks from an old-fashioned grocer's shop in the Gloucestershire village where I grew up. I always ate these secretly in my room: comfort food and an a early type of protection ritual. When they stopped making them, I never made the step to that poor substitute for the potato stick, the common and ubiquitous crisp. As an adult in London I discovered that M&S had the goods, but in large packets so that the salt intake meant borderline hospitalisation if eaten all in one go (and how else could they be eaten?). In Somerset I had a similar relationship with tesco potato sticks, but all this was in my pre-thyroid days and once that hereditary menace emerged I gave up such indulgence.
So here in France where crisps are foolishly called chips and so loaded with salt that wrinkles appear as you eat, there has been nothing comparable to tempt me until now. What is it about Pringles? Partly the perfect light texture and seasoning, partly the challenge of the shape: it tantalises the mouth and requires, for the greatest oral satisfaction, two bites, the first of which must be clean enough to avoid shattering the second half into fragments. Then there is the effort required to plunge one's hand further and further into the tube, and the test of how many days you can make one lot last. I can't do better than four. But the whole process has all the fulfilment of a ritual beyond physical gratification.