Sunday, December 03, 2006
On Dorito hegemony
many will make midnight bodega runs in search of smokes or a 40, but my particular late-night vice is snack food--in particular, Doritos in the 99-cent bags, which are bigger than the ones you get out of vending machines but smaller than the "normal"-sized bags at grocery stores. this size seems to be particular to bodegas.
anyway, i was thinking about how Doritos are generally understood to be the best snack food there is. i had always held this opinion, but two recent incidents confirmed that i wasn't alone. a few weeks ago, i was at a friend's house for a movie night and some of us were ordering Thai food. one girl declined, even though she hadn't eaten dinner. instead, she showed up with a bag of this new variety of Doritos: Blazin' Buffalo & Ranch. in other words, that was her dinner. it seems insubstantial, but i can understand how Doritos can make up a whole meal. we talked a little bit about how incredible Doritos were and how we both felt compelled to try every new flavor that came out.
another Doritos-varietal convocation came about at work the other day. the copy editor next to me was making a run to the gas station across the street, and she asked me if i wanted anything. when i declined, she was like, "Not even some Doritos?" and even though i didn't place an order, i seriously reconsidered, b/c i mean, hey, Doritos are in a whole other class than other snacks. she came back with some, and i declined a few chips b/c i was chewing gum (Doritos + gum, even within like two hours of one another, is a formidably nauseating combo). but we did get into a back-and-forth about various flavors that echoed the one described above. i maintained that my favorite flavor by far was that Black Pepper Jack one (which, when it was first introduced in my childhood, was called, i believe, Jumpin' Jack Cheese, or thereabouts), and she heartily agreed.
anyway, so people like these chips a lot is what i'm saying. people are really passionate about their favorite flavors and all that. i was trying to think about why they're so universally enjoyed and i came up with a few possible reasons, one of which is the straightforward brazen-ness of the taste. basically when you eat snack chips, or anything super-artificial like that, you don't want sustenance, you want intense, even vulgar amounts of flavor. and Doritos, with their garish dusting of neon powder, deliver that every time. i was thinking about how it doesn't even matter which flavor you're eating; if you squint your tastebuds, they all basically taste the same: really spicy and tangy, and with a slight hint of vomit underneath (or maybe it's just a presaging of vomit...). they just go further than other chips in that sense.
but it's not just that, b/c plenty of other snacks, from Cheetos to Pringles, have outlandish flavor quotients. it's something about the texture and the consistency too. a snack chip should feel decadenct somehow, and with all that powder rubbing off on your fingers that you have to lick off--so that eating them requires undivided attention--Doritos certainly deliver on that front. and even though they can leave you a bit sick--just as the 99-cent bag of Jalapeno Cheddar i have just ingested has done--it's not that greasy potato chip feeling. it's gross, but it's not that bad.
anyway, i know this is fascinating stuff... all the same, i know everyone is obsessed with Doritos, and has been for years, and i think this hegemony bears mentioning. maybe someday i will investigate the appeal of Goldfish, which is another snack food that people love, but for totally different reasons. Goldfish are like Doritos' educated, liberal cousin: they're subtle, with muted flavor and just a hint of spice, and utterly ungreasy and unpowdery. i love those too, but my desire for them doesn't send me out into the cold night craving a bag like Doritos do.
ps, while "researching" this post, i stumbled across taquitos.net, which is actually an entire site devoted to snack-food reviews. i mean, i guess this had to exist in theory but it kind of rules that it actually does. one particularly funny observation from the front page that i can really relate to: "Despite the weirdness and questionable nutritional value, sometimes there's something about Lunchables that makes me want to buy them." amen!