Ghosts and Bats and Snacks Better Scurry...

Because I am who I am, I cannot help but look around the grocery stores each and every Halloween to see if there is some snack or goodie that is new to me. 

In a strange twist of fate, despite my lifelong Halloween obsession, I am not nor have I ever been a candy-holic. While I quite love certain candies (see below), my sweet tooth – even as a child – was usually sated within one or two bites of something. When other kids were seriously disgruntled when they received packs of trading cards in their bags (I mean, sure, they had a stick of chewing gum in them, but come on...), I found it an easy matter to swap out a Snickers bar (in the pre-"fun size" days) for a few packs of whatever cards were making their way through the rounds that particular year. It's how I made off with my initial stack of Topps You'll Die Laughing trading cards back when I was around nine or ten (more on this in coming weeks) and how I loaded up so well on Welcome Back Kotter, Happy Days, Mork and Mindy, and Bay City Rollers (yup...) cards back in the day.

So, when Halloween rolls around, we make sure to have candy on the off-chance that we actually have trick-or-treaters in an given year (last Halloween was the best turnout in ages – we are in a new neighborhood and no longer in an apartment building – so we need to be sure to load up this time). But I don't really spend much time perusing the different types of candy, except to be sure to find some Tootsie Caramel Apple Pops for myself and something chocolatey for Jen. My main concern when I go to the store in October is in finding other snacks that fit the Halloween season in a proper and fun way.

You may be thinking immediately... PUMPKIN... and you are so wrong. Yes, I do have a great love for both pumpkin pie and pumpkin bread. I also don't mind trying the odd pumpkin flavored this or that if it is offered to me, or if I decide on a whim to test out something. But we really are at an over-saturation point on all things pumpkin (though I am sure it is grand for the pumpkin industry), which I somewhat blame on Starbucks and on rich white people in general (I am pretty certain Martha Stewart had a hand in this somehow). Oh, yeah, and places like Trader Joe's.

And this is the stuff that I
cannot even try...
Now, I love Trader Joe's. When we lived in Anaheim for the past decade and had one just down the road from us, Jen and I shopped there weekly; now that we are a little farther away, we get to one about every three weeks or so. We have favorite items there that are staples in our weekly menus, and I cannot get by without having a stock of their Sparkling Lime Mineral Water at hand. But any trip to TJ's in late September will reveal to you entire cases full of pumpkin-flavored items that really have little to no business being pumpkin-flavored. While I am a connoisseur of tortilla chips, I just can't quite make the commitment to pumpkin-flavored ones (I've tried them though, so I at least gave them a shot). Honey-roasted pumpkin ravioli, which I have not tried because, medically, I cannot, also doesn't really appeal to me, which is also the case when I read aloud the names of many of Trader Joe's (or any other company's) pumpkin-enhanced items.

So while I don't completely write off finding something interesting in the pumpkin realm, I always hope to find something else odd in the grocery store that speaks to the monster lover that I am or really gives me a challenge for the palate beyond that great orange gourd. Unfortunately, I am saddled with dreadful wheat and rye allergies that limit me to making sure most items that I try are marked as "gluten-free" to ensure that I avoid either of those ingredients. Since wheat flour seems to be in just about everything these days, this rather kills me from trying out the bulk of items they have for sale, such as the many holiday-themed turns on Joe-Joe's (Trader Joe's brand knockoff of Oreos), including their Halloween variation which, surprisingly, does not have pumpkin-flavored cream in the middle. (Seriously, how did they miss this one?)

Last year, Trader Joe's announced Ghost Pepper Potato Chips, and I jumped on checking them out right away. Compared to another product that I tried out from another ghost pepper chip company (Paqui, though theirs were tortilla chips not potato) at the same time which blew my taste buds out, the TJ's chips were far tastier overall but not nearly as hot as the dare of the packaging led me to believe. [You can read that review from last year here.]

Cut to our impromptu visit to a Trader Joe's in Irvine the other day where, due to unexpectedly light traffic, Jen's mom, Sande, and I had a full hour to kill before my scheduled visit to my doctor, a gastrointestinal specialist. Perusing the aisles of each Trader Joe's is always interesting because every store is laid out in a  slightly different way, and this location was no exception. For one, the aisles seemed a tad wider than usual for a Trader Joe's, but it looked like it had been dropped into a much larger space than they normally tend to have. The layout of the different sections was also markedly different, so it took a little bit to get our bearings, but even the biggest Trader Joe's is still much smaller than a normal supermarket, so it is never too hard to figure out where one is situated.

The poem, I must admit,
is more than a trifle
lacking in style...
Naturally, there were a couple of different endcaps and a huge display prominently promoting roughly 8,000 pumpkin products (really, under a couple dozen) but nothing that really stuck with me. I figured that I might check out the chip aisle to see if the Ghost Pepper Potato Chips were still around, just in case nothing else stuck. But then something did stick... Ghosts & Bats Crispy Potato Snacks!

If there is such thing as love at first sight for a product, it was this as I rounded the corner and saw yet another endcap featuring a brand new product to my eyes. A greenish and purple bag with a haunted house on the front, featuring ghosts and bats flying around it, and windows on the house that you could see straight through that showed the potato crisps inside. And the best part? The crisps were shaped liked ghosts and bats!

If I had a "Squeeee!" in me at that time, that would have been the moment for it to eek out into the atmosphere and shock the old lady standing nearby me. That bag was in the cart faster than you could ever imagine. The price on the item – only $1.99 for 5 ounces – also made it a no-brainer for a taste test. Of course, part of the fun of many Trader Joe's items is the packaging, which sometimes reach J. Peterman catalog-levels of odd intrigue. Not so this time. Instead, a poem is printed on the back of the bag, and as you will tell, whoever wrote it needed to give it another draft or two:

Cute UPC ghost
negates bad poetry...
"There once was a 
house in a forest dark,
where ghosts and bats – 
upon a lark...

...happened on to potato crisps
and commenced munching 

No squeaks or moaning 
were ever heard,
instead – 
a crunch, crunch, crunch, 
so absurd...

It was not long before
of their favorite snacks
the ghosts and bats
began to snack!


So, yeah... If this guy ever gets buried by accident at Poets' Corner, he would probably come back as a bull in a china shop. But it's entirely beside the point. They were just trying to sell a back of potato chips/crisps, and they did their job on me before I even got to the stupid poem with its horrible meter. Besides... there is a cute little ghost hanging out over the UPC label, so technically, that negates the awfulness of the poem.

Yup, that's what they look like. Bat and ghost,
ready to die of (your) consumption...
All of this aside, how are Ghosts & Bats Crispy Potato Snacks? Well, they are certainly crispy, they are made of potato predominately (thankfully, there are only five ingredients listed on the back, potato flour and potato starch being those two), and they fall into the snack category. So, truth in advertising is in full force already. These are more crisps than potato chips, though please don't confuse that with the British term "crisps," which actually means "potato chips". These are pretty light and almost dissolve on the tongue after a short wait, almost like a cheesy poof.

As for the "ghosts and bats" part, indeed, opening the bag revealed that the greater proportion of pieces were cute cut-out shapes of winged batties and little ghosties with oval eyes and mouths that I assume are going "Woooooo!" Of course, any bag of potato snacks will have its crushed denizens lurking about within, and this was no exception. Luckily, most of the ghosts and bats were intact, and ready to charm straight away. 

As for taste, like any potato snack, I prefer to stack up multiple crisps in one bite for more potato flavor, but I will say that there was a definite lack of overall saltiness that actually turned out to be quite appealing. I would suppose some would consider that a bit bland, and normally I would, but it worked out fine in this case.

It really didn't matter, because I was purchasing this bag for the fun of the experience, and fun is what I received. It was a relatively light (130 calories per one ounce serving), silly snack that I will be more than happy to buy again before the Halloween season is over. I wouldn't mind Trader Joe's trying out different flavors with these in the future; perhaps a salt and vinegar version might be terrific (no matter what I just said about downplaying the saltiness).

But, please, despite the season, no pumpkin-flavored potato chips...



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