One bright sunny day at the Tate Museum in 1987, an Englishman, feeling a bit peckish, decided to buy a bag of crisps from the vending machine. He dropped the coins in the slot, made his selection and casually tried to reach into the dispenser slot to retrieve his snack. Something blocked the door. To his great surprise and delight, the slot was jammed full of bags of chips. Upon inspection he discovered that, through a tremendous stroke of good luck, all of the bags contained one of England’s most popular flavors: Salt & Vinegar.
How did the machine get flooded with bags of Salt & Vinegar chips? He undoubtedly pondered the mystery for years and came up with a myriad of possibilities: simple mechanical malfunction; an advertising campaign; a gag; a candid camera stunt… But he would never, not in a thousand years, stumble upon the truth.
That very day, a group of middle school kids from France had visited the Tate. They were all staying with host families who had kindheartedly prepared them picnic lunches to enjoy at the museum: most of the lunches included chips. One French girl opened her bag and, sampling the first vinegar flavored chip of her life, let out a gasp of horror and disgust. In disbelief, her classmates, one by one tasted a chip from her bag. Eventually, the entire 8th grade class concluded unanimously that Vinegar flavored chips were amazingly inedible. What would they do?
They couldn’t take them home and insult their well-meaning hosts. They hesitated to waste so much food by throwing the untouched bags in the garbage.
Finally, one young man with curly brown locks of hair and a rather distinguished nose came up with the solution. A half an hour probably hadn’t even gone by when the lucky Englishman stumbled upon the chips in the dispenser slot of the cafeteria vending machine.
Taste: it’s cultural.
(Of course, now that curly brown haired boy has married a woman and fathered two boys who love Salt & Vinegar chips… and other atrocities.)