From the tip of Farewell Spit to the very arse end of Stewart Island, there is one delicacy that unites Te Wai Pounamu: the humble green onion chip. But why?
I have many fond childhood memories of visiting my grandparents’ farm near Nelson – baby animals, the same paisley carpet as the Karori United Video store, bottomless jars of lollies, games of pool with my grandad, a car whose backseat was inexplicably covered with sheepskins and soft toys, an ancient swimming pool that always had a dead frog or two floating in it. But the fondest of all these memories relates to chips.
At the farm, no matter the day, 5pm was “happy hour”, when it was time to perch oneself on a La-Z-Boy to enjoy a beverage and some pre-dinner salty snacks. A glass of sherry for grandma, lemonade for me, a big 750ml glass bot of Double Brown for grandad. And, almost without fail, a packet of green onion chips.
Gran would occasionally branch out to salt and vinegar, but nine times out of 10 it was green onion, a flavour I never once had at home in Wellington. Pop across Cook Strait, however, and green onion was de rigueur.
I grew up and stopped visiting so much, the grandparents got older and eventually passed away. I rarely thought of green onion chips, but during the recent summer holidays, they made a reappearance at gatherings of our now long-time-Auckland-based family. I’m not sure who was responsible, but it was not a controversial move: green onion was a universally agreed-upon flavour (unlike barbecue, which my mother once disparagingly said “tastes like Burger Rings”, as if that’s a bad thing; chicken, which is objectively disgusting but beloved by the under-12s; or ready salted – liked by the oldies, but essentially trash, as a wise woman once pointed out).
Green onion, on the other hand, was a flavour that brought the family together, a snack that found favour with every age bracket from the under-fives to the over-70s.