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New Zealand’s South Island and green onion chips: A love story for the ages

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?

Alice Neville embarks on a quest for the true story behind this regional snacking quirk in a delightful article. We publish a brief excerpt here – the full story can be read on The Spinoff.

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.

Image: Toby Manhire

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.

Source: The Spinoff
Author: Alice Neville is The Spinoff’s food editor as well as a deputy editor. Email her on [email protected]
Cover photo: YeahNah Productions

Lukie Pieterse, Editor and Publisher of Potato News Today

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