Belfast Telegraph

Tayto cheese and onion would have put KGB off scent

Author Ben Macintyre
Author Ben Macintyre

By Lindy McDowell

Tayto cheese and onion would have put KGB off scent I have a tendency to get around to reading books a bit after everybody else has.

I've just finished the superb bestseller The Spy And The Traitor by Ben Macintyre.  Described by John le Carre as "the best true spy story I have ever read" (and he should know), it's an edge-of-your-seat thriller made all the more compelling because it's factual.

It's also beautifully written with meticulous attention to detail. Without giving away the whole story, there's a scene in it which I found especially fascinating. British agents are attempting to distract Russian sniffer dogs who could disclose the hiding place of an escaping spy.

They open a bag of cheese and onion crisps, drop a few on the ground and feed a couple to the dogs. Macintyre explains: "Invented by Joe 'Spud' Murphy in 1958, cheese and onion is a pungent artificial cocktail of onion powder, whey powder, cheese powder, dextrose, salt, potassium chloride, flavour enhancers, sodium 5'-ribonucleotide, monosodium glutamate, yeast, citric acid and colouring."  It's pretty obvious which flavour to reach for then when you're aiming to put sniffer dogs off the scent.

But which brand? As we all know, there's their Tayto cheese and onion down south. And then there's our Tayto up here.

Opinion is divided on which is best, but I think we can all agree both are pretty muscular in terms of taste and smell. Surprisingly, though, it turns out that the brand the agents relied on for distraction purposes were wimpy Golden Wonder.  Compared to which Tayto (both up here and down there) are weapons grade aromatic.  With James Bond you only live twice. With Mr Tayto you only sniff once.

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