This has nothing to do with the cutting edge of microelectronics, but the very low-tech tasting of slices of fried potato.
Sue has somehow got us in touch with a company that carries out consumer tests on various items. She has already turned down the chance to test deodorants (because they were perfumed, apparently.) But when the chance to taste and pass judgement on chips came up, she decided to go for it.
We arrived at the appointed hour at the company’s premises where we signed in and sat in the waiting area with another dozen or so people.
After a brief introduction and request not to discuss the testing with our fellow guinea pigs, we were each allocated a number and taken through to a room with computers in cubicles around the walls. We were asked to sit at a computer that had a paper plate of dry crackers and a plastic cup of water, so I sat down. The computer screen was already set up waiting for me to log in and the software was very simple to use – simply a matter of following the instructions on the screen. My login was the number 69 that I had been given earlier.
After a few moments, the first of our small bowls containing four freshly cooked chips arrived. The computer programme prompted me, step by step to assess the colour, texture and taste of the sample and to score these on the computer.
After the first four chips, I was prompted to cleanse my palate with a cracker and water and very soon the next sample bowl of four chips arrived. I repeated the process for a total of five samples of chips.
Unfortunately, I had a cold on the day that we were tasting these chips and I am convinced that this will have affected my ability to taste. However, I was still very surprised at the wide variation between the different batches of chips that I was given.
Some chips, were quite powdery and dry – with very little real flavour, while others were very much more like something that came from a garden rather than a laboratory. All of them, we were told, are used in the catering industry and I have probably had all of them before in various cafes and pubs.
I was also struck by the differences in length of these chips. Some were perhaps four inches long while others barely made two inches.
Yes, I have heard that size isn’t everything, but never in the context of chips.
At the end of the test, we filed back out to the waiting area where I discovered that this wasn’t volunteering when I was handed a gift voucher to the value of £10.
After 20 chips, in my case without salt, Sue judged that we had eaten about a bag and that I therefore didn’t need any supper. I must have looked pitiful, because later that evening, she relented.