As this blog has grown, so I've started to receive a steady trickle of press releases imploring me to feature various foodstuffs. I scan these emails eagerly, hoping to find an attachment containing a bribe coupon to the value of at least R5000. When no such inducement is offered, I delete the email with a hollow laugh.
But this particular press release caught my attention, and I share it with you here for two reasons: one, I think this competiton - What's Your Lekker Flavour? - is a clever, original campaign (I love the funky artwork; see left). Two, I want to return a favour.
Let me start with the brand. I have a soft spot for Simba chips (crisps, actually: South Africans call potato crisps 'chips', and call French fries 'chips' too) because they were part of my childhood, along with all those other iconic South African brands: Mrs Ball's Chutney, Ideal Milk, Ouma's Buttermilk Rusks, Zoo Biscuits, and so on. As a child, the trip from our smallholding in Muldersdrift to what was then Jan Smuts Airport (now O.R. Tambo Airport) seemed to drag on for hours, and I remember eagerly looking out for the huge Simba lion which stood (and still does) outside the Simba factory near the airport, because this was a sign that we were almost there.
I am also grateful to Simba for a special childhood memory. When I was ten or so, I sat down and wrote a letter to the company asking them how they made their chips. I have no idea what prompted me to do so (genuine curiosity, I like to think, but more likely opportunistic nosiness). Very soon I received a polite letter thanking me for my interest and inviting me - oh, joy of joys! - to visit the factory for a tour, and to bring along some friends. This, to me, was akin to being given a golden ticket to Mr Wonka's Chocolate Factory. A few weeks later, a gang of us piled into the back of my mom's station-wagon and headed off to the factory, where we spent a happy hour being led, open-jawed, around the factory, with its hissing cauldrons, its clanking conveyer belts and the heady aroma of salt and vinegar. At the end of the tour, we were taken to the dispatch area, where - double joy! - our arms were filled with as many packets as we could carry.
Anyway, the idea behind the What's Your Lekker Flavour? compeition is that you come up with an original new flavour that is distinctively South African. If you're the winner, you'll walk away with R200 000, plus 1 per cent of the future sales of your chips. This, says the company, could add up to a cool half a million rands a year. So, what will it be? Bobotie and Lemon Leaf? Snoek Pâté and Chilli? Waterblommetjie Bredie? If you're going to enter the competition, you'll need to come up with something staggeringly original, as the campaign has already attracted over 78 000 entries. The panel of judges - which includes one of my favourite South African chefs, Reuben Riffel - is certainly going to have its work cut out.
You can enter online, by MMS, or by snail mail: www.lekkerflavour.co.za