My Life in Crisps: The Skinny Food Writing Competition

From medical emergencies to Friday nights by the sofa, one writer on the recurring role crisps have played in her life

Feature by Marianne MacRae | 12 Apr 2021
  • Food and Drink Writing Competition

When I was five, I trapped my pinkie in the heavy toilet door at McDonald's. This was the early 90s, when there was no such thing as health and safety or trap-prevention mechanisms. At hospital it was recorded as a 'partial amputation', but three stitches, surprisingly few tears and a bulbous white bandage later, me and my pinkie left intact.

As a reward for being SO BRAVE in the face of my own childish ineptitude, I was given a cuddly toy lamb and a packet of salt and vinegar Chipsticks. I can still recall the unadulterated, strip-the-skin-off-your-cheeks tang of them, so much more flavoursome than they are now, since companies were forced to start regulating how much salt and MSG they pile into their products. A year later, I got pneumonia and entirely lost my appetite. The only thing I can remember eating and not immediately throwing up is a packet of Wotsits. 

I’m one of six siblings and when my single mother would come home with the weekly shop, we’d dive on the multipack of crisps, each of us slapping and scuffling to make sure we got our rightful flavour before vegging out in front of some corny Friday night sitcom. Just thinking of the eyewatering afterburn of Brannigan’s roast beef and mustard is enough to bring my brother, who loved those ones the best, back from the dead. 

Crisps have always been there for me. When I was pregnant during the first lockdown last year, one of the things I hankered after was salt and vinegar Walkers. I’ll never be sure if it was really a craving, or just my body seeking a bag full of the starchy, salty comfort that has always soothed me during times of great change.

Marianne MacRae is an Edinburgh-based writer and researcher. She has a PhD in Creative Writing, won a Scottish Book Trust New Writers Award for poetry in 2020 and just really really likes crisps.

This is one of the selected pieces from our Food and Drink Writing Competition; scroll on to read more from our winning writers...