Pringles: An Existential Question

A friend of mine recently departed on leave from South Sudan after spending several weeks carrying out aid work. During her time there she witnessed plenty of hardship and suffering, sharing in the day-to-day activities and working side-by-side with the people of this newly formed country.  On her UN flight home she was offered a choice—a simple one, but after many weeks of lentils and rice perhaps a significant one for her.  She ponders:

Existential question: I live in the world’s newest country. On a UN flight today, there was an option to buy Pringles, which I promptly ordered. The flight attendant offered me “cheesy cheese” or “original” flavors. My colleague and I ordered one of each. It turns out that “original”  is actually salt and vinegar here. This begs the question: in a new country, who determines that sea salt and vinegar flavor is “original”? What are the implications of this flavor conundrum? Is this a painful gastronomical residue of British colonialism?

In the grand scheme of things this is a pretty insignificant thought, a lighthearted conundrum for someone who was given a simple choice to entice her taste buds after many weeks of bland lentils and rice.  However, it raises an interesting question: who gets to decide what “original” is? And why do they change it for different regions?

I grew up in Britain, with the same “original” Pringles as the US, so I don’t think the UK had any influential factor here (although s&v is my personal favorite.)  But the same question could be asked for other regions around the world: what determines an “original” palate from nation to nation; it’s not as if lightly salted is defined to a specific region or salt & vinegar has any agricultural prevalence…why do Germans prefer red pepper, Americans plain, Indonesians barbecue and Austrians garlic?

(Photo: Pringles)