Taste Scene

Michael Devlin

Lough Derg and lentil curls

Ever been to Lough Derg? No? Well, take it from me, it’s tight going. Come to think of it, maybe they should rename the place ‘Tight Going.’
It wasn’t the sleeplessness that I struggled with (my previous life as a student had me well versed in all-nighters) or the bare-footedness but rather, going without food for a prolonged period of time had me fairly demented. Honestly, I was so hungry I remember standing outside the basilica at one point wondering if I might survive a swim to the shore, and to heck with that this self-flagellation malarkey.
I’m reminded of those fateful days on Lough Derg this week, as I continue to struggle with Lent. Only now do I realise I shouldn’t have been so gung-ho on Ash Wednesday.
I’m off biscuits, chocolate, sweets and crisps and even writing these words makes me yearn for the sweet succour of Dairy Milk or the umami tang of Tayto Spring Onion.
And then I am reminded of a conversation I once had with a priest on the topic of fasting and Lent. To paraphrase the man of the cloth, he said something like, “If you restrict yourself in life, whether it’s food or creature comforts, then the delicacies of life are all tastier, when the time comes.”
Amen to that, brother. All I know is, when Easter Sunday swings around I’ll be breaking my fast with two rounds of crisp sandwiches and a tub of Celebrations for dessert. Never had dessert after breakfast? You’re missing out.
Speaking of dessert… I was chatting to a man at the weekend who is also off chocolate for Lent. “Big wow,” says I, thinking of my extra crisp, sweets and biscuit devotions.
Says he, “It’s a big deal in my world. I normally eat 70 Wispa bars a week.”
Now that’s impressive and knowing the man that he is, I don’t doubt this for one second.
However as a consequence of my own monk-like endeavours this Lent, I have noticed that my consumption of lentil curls has gone through the roof. For the uninitiated, lentil curls are crisp-like, in that they come in small packets, they share similar flavourings and most importantly, they have a very satisfying crunch.
Billed as a healthier alternative to the classic crisp, lentil curls are certainly less calorific. The M&S versions, for example are billed as ‘guilt-free snacking’ and contain some 90 calories per bag. Compare that to a bag of say, McCoys (252 calories) and the eyebrows begin to raise.
I know what you’re thinking though: Aren’t lentil curls just crisps of a different guise? And are you just dodging your Lenten vows?
Yes and no. The pulse snacks are certainly under the overarching ‘crisp’ umbrella but as they’re healthier, higher in protein and full of fibre, I’m splitting this particular hair with a definitive, “I don’t care.” If St Peter wants to take this up with me at the Pearly Gates, I’ll be ready. But I’d say lentil curls are hardly a deal breaker to a life everlasting.
St Pete’s hardly gonna say, “Sorry, bud… I can see on the list on my clipboard here that you had lentil curls that Lent in 2019. It’s the fiery depths for you, I’m afraid.”
I don’t want to tempt fate but if that transpired, I’d tell him, “Wise up,” and then slap the clipboard out of his hand.
Come on, there’s definitely worse things I could be at during this time of Lenten observance – like eating 70 bars of Wispa a month, for a start.
For your benefit, dear reader, I have thus attempted to eat all the various lentil curls I can find in our local shops and I can confirm that they are all good, bar one particular type. But we’ll get to that one in due course.
Top of the lentil curl pile, is M&S Sour Cream and Chilli Lentil Curls (£2 for five bags). Baked and not fried, they have a subtle chilli kick which sets them apart from the best of the rest of the competition.
ASDA’s Sour Cream and Onion and Lidl’s Sour Cream and Onion are a joint second (85p and 72p respectively and that’s for six bags of the pulsating loveliness). All of the above have a sublime crunch and only M&S’s chilli kick seals the top spot for the expensive ones.
The bottom of the pile (and I am conscious I have tried any Tesco, Dunnes or independent lentil curls) is Passions Deli’s Thai Sweet Chilli Lentil Curls from Aldi. Whilst they retain the great crunch, they taste like raw curry powder.
Consequently, as my own consumption of these alt crisps have gone through the roof, so has that of the Devlin family. We’re all off traditional crisps, you see.
On Saturday night past, as I was hoking a bag of Asda’s finest out of the pantry, our eldest came running up to me with a similar bag she had purloined moments earlier. She goes, “Daddy, daddy… look!” and she pointed to her bag of Sour Cream and Onion Lentil Curls.
However, none the wiser with her gesticulating, I was forced to ask, “Wha?”
Sarah, seemingly aghast at my rampant stupidity replied as though talking to a simple child, “Lent-il curls… Lent-til curls… they’re for Lent!”
“Wows,” says I, mentally filing that titbit away for whenever me and St Pete finally meet.

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