The good folks at Frito-Lay first got my attention with this commercial:
What that is is a commercial for a bag of corn chips sprinkled with flavor powder. Well, plus a paean to the sexy classy party-all-night-lifestyle that most DDDT writers and readers enjoy. Obviously, Doritos knows (and knows we know) that eating a bag of cheeseburger chips will not turn everything into sexy neon nighttime. But Doritos thinks (and hopes we think) that that same bag of chips will sound really sophisticated and upscale when connected with that sort of lifestyle. It’s a funny line they walk. If you add cheeseburger powder to a bag of chips and call them “Cheeseburger flavored,” we all instantly think of a sloppy fat truck driver eating a greasy cheesburger. No sale. That’s the genius of “LATE NIGHT: all nighter Cheeseburger.” You see, I have a brother who lives in New York City, so I know that “LATE NIGHT: all nighter Cheeseburger” means that you went out to a super fancy restaurant for dinner at 10:30 (that’s dinner time for partiers), then you danced in dancing clubs for like five hours, and then you went and got a cheeseburger. See, when you’re super fancy and urban, you don’t eat a cheeseburger for dinner. But as a totally slumming way of winding down from a vodka fueled night on the town? Perfect. Cheeseburger= white trash. LATE NIGHT: all nighter Cheeseburger=semi-ironic hipster concession for hotties. Perfect!
But does a late night cheeseburger taste any different from a regular cheeseburger? Just ask yourself this: Does a beautiful hipster taste different from a fat trucker? I actually don’t know the answer to that. But still, I want to discuss flavor, because this is what Doritos says about the flavor of LATE NIGHT: all nighter Cheeseburger: “Every chip will remind you of your favorite burger joint. The pickles. The onions. Ketchup and mustard. Melted cheese, and flame-kissed beef.” Okay, so what does it taste like? Pickles, onions, ketchup, mustard, cheese, and beef. Presumably, there’s some ground corn taste in the mix as well (and salt- something tells me there’s salt). So . . . eight flavors, seven of them powdered.
So then yesterday my family went up the canyon and had a picnic for Labor Day. Somebody showed up with a little bag of these:
Now anyone who knows me well knows that I love Cheetos. But wow– Ragin’Cajun (one word, fiery fed font) AND Tangy Ranch AND a background of the familiar cheesy taste you’re used to, AND the Cheetos are chopped down into popcorn-shaped bites? And then to tie it all together, you call it “Cheetos: mighty zingers.” It’s like they don’t even give a crap what the stuff actually tastes like. The point is to just throw a ton of stuff out there and try and fry some tastebuds. I ate a handful and my tongue pretty much went off-line for a couple minutes. Who decided that Ragin’Cajun couldn’t be its own Cheetos flavor? And has there ever been an instance in America before when cajun flavoring (origin: Louisiana) was mixed with Ranch flavoring (origin: the rolling ranching hills of California)? And then thrown into a cluster of cheese flavored corn puffs (origin: purely synthetic in every possible way). It all calls to mind the advice of Kahmunrah to Darth Vader:
Seriously, Frito-Lay, what is going on here? Why have we had this crazy flavor escalation? A little further research reveals that there are now Cheetos (which is the one product that already has a very identifiable flavor that defines its brand) flavored with Chile Limon, Cheddar Jalapeno, Sharp Cheddar AND Salsa Picante, and Wild Habanero and Cheese. Seriously, they’ve gone crazy over there. And the Doritos product list is even more picante– there are “Pizza Cravers and Ranch,” “Cheesy Enchilada and Sour Cream” and now (I’m not making this up) “First-Degree Burn,” “Second-Degree Burn” and “Third-Degree Burn” Doritos, powered by Jalapenos, Habaneros, and Buffalo Wings. This situation is totally out of control, and it needs to stop.
Let me speak out as one brave citizen and just say this: You can’t put the flavor of an enchilada and sour cream and cheese in a chip. And you can’t put the flavor of a late night taco there either. This isn’t Willy-Wonka land. And you especially can’t put the flavor of a metrosexual party-boy’s life in a snack bag. And also, no one wants to get burned by eating processed corn chips. Even if it’s just sort of a playful, fictional threat, it doesn’t draw anyone to your chips, except for maybe some fourteen year old extreme daredevils who might want to incorporate it into their dirt bike stunts. Please, Frito-Lay, put the flavor powder down. Let’s go back to the time when a bag of chips was just a bag of chips.