Hedgehog flavour

In 1981 Phillip Lewis released potato chips flavoured like roasted hedgehog. In 1982 the UK government prosecuted him for false advertising because the chips did not contain real hedgehog.

Peter Trimming from Croydon, England, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Hedgehogs taste a little like rather chewy pork. They were not an uncommon dish, historically speaking. Consider the following instructions, from a Medieval French cookbook / household guide called Le Ménagier de Paris:

Hedgehog should have its throat cut, be singed and gutted, then trussed like a pullet, then pressed in a towel until very dry; and then roast it and eat with cameline sauce, or in pastry with wild duck sauce. Note that if the hedgehog refuses to unroll, put it in hot water, and then it will straighten itself

Le Ménagier de Paris

(I’m going to write more about that book another time, by the way – it is one of our primary sources for Medieval recipes.)

Anyway, some Romani people in England still eat hedgehog today, baked, roasted, or boiled. And nearly forty years ago this inspired a chap named Phillip Lewis to create a novelty potato chip flavour: hedgehog.

The chips, fortunately, did not contain real hedgehog. Instead, Lewis concocted a flavour meant to evoke hedgehog, using mainly pork and herbs. And this is where he ran into trouble. The UK’s consumer protection agency noted that the description – “hedgehog flavoured crisps” – was false advertising, and took him to court in 1982.

Lewis and the regulatory agency negotiated back and forth for a while. How could Lewis be sure that this is what hedgehog tasted like? Should he do some research? The end result was a minor change to the advertising: instead of calling them “hedgehog flavoured” (which implied that it included real hedgehog), the chips should be described as “hedgehog flavour” (which was okay). The chips went back on sale in 1984.

[Thanks to Alistair S.]

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