I recently stumbled across a trio of old photos, which has me sorted for three weeks worth of Throw Back Thursday material. This is the oldest one, taken in the early 90s. Can I provide a more precise date? Well, that sofa belonged in the family home in London before my parents upped sticks and moved to the south coast in late 1993, so the shot was taken before that point. The sofa didn’t go with them because the rather adorable German Shepherd in the photo had chewed the arms off it as a young pup.
The dog is the other obvious clue. She passed away all too early in November 2003, aged 11. So we must have got her sometime in 2002. And she clearly isn’t a very young pup. So I’m going to say this must be early to middle 1993. The dog was called Lacey and was the best dog in the world. Some might suggest that this is a very subjective topic, or go even further and state that another dog was the best ever. But they’d be wrong.
There’s something else in the photo that is, very sadly, no longer with us. I noticed it. Follow the dogs nose – she noticed it too. I am munching on a pack of Phileas Fogg Mignons Morceaux. The wrapper is distictive. They made several other snacks – Shanghai Nuts, several different tortilla crisps, a couple of Cichettas, Punjab Puri, Java Crackers and pastrami bagels. But I know these were Mignons Morceaux, because they were my favourite. And yes, I would most definitely have given one of them to Lacey the dog.
They were very much premium products, and they were very successful. Founded by a former coal miner and made in County Durham, they built a brilliant brand with quality packaging and and an entertaining set of television adverts. And most importantly, Phileas Fogg snacks were delicious. Alas, they were bought out by one of the food giants who decided in their wisdom to utterly ignore that great old saying – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The product range was revamped, the packaging changed, sales slumped and the brand died. There was an attemped relaunch in 2009, but the factories doors closed for good in 2015. RIP Phileas Fogg.
On the back of each packet, there was a diary entry by Phileas Fogg. Well, by someone purporting to be the great traveller. I used to like to read them. Even though the diary entry would be same on each type of snack, I’d read them again. At the time of the photo, I had left the UK just once, on a school holiday to the south of France. Travelling wasn’t high on my list of things to do at the time. In my investigations into what happened to Philead Fogg snacks, I found a page listing all the diary entries – see below. Including several from Mexico for the different tortilla flavours. Little did I know that almost exactly ten years on from this photo, I’d be travelling through Mexico myself, writing my own digital diary entries.
Mexico City, 29th June
Our first day in Mexico heralded a most embarassing misunderstanding. In dire need of refreshment, we stopped at a small hostlry en route to Mexico City where we partook of these splendid Tortilla Chips, traditional Mexican savouries seasoned with delicious spices. The cufuffle arose when I attempted to order a dish of tantalising Salsa dip to complement our Tortillas. One’s Spanish, however, is somewhat elementary, and after a most bamboozling conversation with the proprietor, it transpired, that one had, in fact, purchased a small chihuahua called ‘Pedro’.
An attempt to vacate the establishment without the tiny creature proved a fruitless exercise, and the three of us were bound to share a stage heading north. However, as a consequence of the said animal’s infernal yapping, we were chased by every bandit and miscreant in the vicinity. Indeed as I write this entry, wondering what a dish of Salsa dip must taste like, ‘Pedro’ sits opposite…watching, waiting. Blast!
Somewhere in Mexico, 1st July
I really haven’t the foggiest notion as to our whereabouts. Alas, my one and only map of Mexico now resides in the belly of the monstrous beast I have been forced to ‘ride’ for the past two days. (One’s posterior suffered greatly from saddle chaffing.) Indeed, the creature would doubtless attempt to devour Passepartout, given half the chance.
Fortunately, unbeknownst to my four-legged friend, I have secured handsome quantities of exquisite local Tortilla Chips, a judicious blend of gentle spices and sour cream. Thankfully mild, they are more aromatic that hot and serve as a refreshing change to some of their fiery cousins.
I am convinced the flavour could be greatly enhanced by plunging one into the fine dip concoction I discovered in the East. Ah, India. How I preferred the magnificent elephant as a means of conveyance. Truly, I fear I cannot travel another day on this wretched mule. Oh, for the softness of a plump cushion.
El Paso, 11th July
Passepartout and I made a short detour from the El Paso track to communicate with a jolly band of Mexicans enjoying a campfire supper. Naturally, I graciously accepted their invitation to join them, whereupon we were treated to an old Mexican song about two foreign travellers who get eaten by a vicious chihuahua! Rather scary, I thought.
We then sampled a splendidly crispy tortilla that the Mexicans call Tortilla Blanca. Fashioned from white corn, these Tortilla Chips are extremely ight and crispy with a delicate Soured Cream and Spring Onion seasoning.
I also recall a delicious Mexican Bean dip – a blend of sour cream and kidney beans, locally known as Frijole con Creme, as I later learnt.
The feast over, Passepartout attempted to thank our hosts by performing a snake charming trick he learnt in India. Sadly, this does not appear to work with rattlesnakes!
My dearest Aunt Agatha,
We have spent several days crossing the great Mexican desert by what must be the most uncomfortable means of conveyance yet pursued during our travels. However, we are now resting in Santa Cruz and my servant, Passepartout, has been out and has brought me a local delicacy which is called Tortilla Chips. These are made by the peasant women from ripened corn which grows in abundance here. They grind the corn with stones into a flour and season lightly with salt and spices. It is then rolled out into thin leaves and baked. The result is a savoury that quite surpasses our English potato crisps. I write this in my hotel room and have beshide me a dish of these Tortilla Chips with a bottle of a very fiery liquor they call Tequila.
Your affectionate and respectful nephew,