You Call That Cooking;
How to Make Not Quite a Meal From Stuff That is Not Quite Food
Herr’s New Hi-Tech Cheese Doodles
These things have saved my life on these long blog days. Usually, on the days we come to town, we have breakfast between 9-10am. Then I usually spend 3-4 hours looking up photos to go with the essays I have written, and putting together each weekly blog post here at http://www.lygsbtd.wordpress.com. We then have at least a half a dozen other chores to do before we head home.
Of course, the last place we stop, before we head for the hills, is the grocery store. By this time, it’s 5 or 6 in the evening. I haven’t eaten anything since 10 am, and my brain is fried. I’m tired of being in town, too hungry to think straight, and we have to decide on our weeks menu, before we can go home and eat. This is a recipe for disaster.
Lately however, Shop Smart in Redway has put out sample bowls of these new high-tech cheese doodles with a sign saying “Take Some”. The ingredient list looks about as long as facebook’s user agreement, and was written in print too fine for me to read without a microscope. I’m sure I don’t want to know what’s in them, but the free samples of these new cheese doodles have pulled me out of some very dark places, and may have prevented several grisly crimes.
By now, cheese doodles have been around for a long time, and I’ve never had any complaints about them. In fact, I’ve never met a cheese doodle I didn’t like. Cheese doodles and I go way back, and although I eat them less often, the older I get, I’m always happy to see them. Baked or fried, name brand or generic, cheese doodles have always been there for me, and never let me down. It would have never occurred to me that they needed improvement, but these new high-tech cheese doodles represent a major leap forward in doodle technology.
The first thing you notice is that these new cheese doodles come in a myriad of new flavors, like pizza, jalapeno poppers, or bacon cheddar flavor. They look different too. These new doodles resemble conventional cheese doodles as much as Doritos resemble tortilla chips, or a McRib resembles a rack of spare ribs.
Superficially, they look similar, but one looks like it came out of a kitchen and the other looks like it was developed by NASA. Besides the other-worldly texture and the blast of space-age MSG based flavor engineering, these new cheese doodles are larger and straighter than their conventional counterparts, further emphasizing their snack potency. They taste good, dangerously good.
I have hurt myself in the past, binging on conventional cheese doodles. Once, in the middle of the night, on a long road trip, I found a great deal on 3 lb of cheese doodles in a 24 hour Safeway store. Individually, cheese doodles do not weigh much, and 3 lb of them takes up a surprising amount of space, but I was traveling alone, so I strapped my newly purchased golden booty into the passenger seat, and got back on the highway.
About an hour later I saw flashing lights in my rear-view mirror. I stopped, and the cop told me that he pulled me over because he thought I was molesting the fat lady in the orange dress sitting next to me. When he saw my lips, hands and steering wheel deeply encrusted with florescent orange doodle-funk, sitting next to a half-eaten garbage bag of cheese doodles, the cop told me I was even more disgusting than he first imagined.
Ultimately, he let me go with just a beating, but that was the first time I ever saw cheese doodles tinted red, with my own blood. I still ate them. Years later, however, when I discovered Frito-Lay’s “Flamin’ Hot Cheetos” they gave me a bone-chilling flashback, as well as ass-searing diarrhea.
Yes, I have suffered as a result of my weakness for cheese doodles, but I never blamed the doodles. They always seem so innocent. So light and airy, with that sunny orange color. They couldn’t hurt anyone, could they? Even so, as I age, more and more, I learn to keep my distance.
In a bowl, in a public place, like at the grocery store, I can control myself. I’ll take a few, maybe a handful or two, just enough to take the edge off. That is, just enough to get past “Wow, these taste unbelievably good!” to “Whoa, there’s something just a little nauseating about these.” Once I get there, I’m ready to face the reality of grocery shopping.
The problem is, I want real food to taste like these new high-tech bacon cheddar cheese doodles, and to require no more preparation than opening the bag. The fact that real food still requires effort and time to prepare, and that it yields less than junk-food-sensational flavor, attests to the ultimate failure of our technological society. There’s nothing like feeling slightly nauseous on junk food to remind you of the emptiness of the modern high-tech lifestyle.
As far as I’m concerned, for all of our global cooking traditions, our haute, and nouveau cuisines, and the modern world of high-tech prepared foods, cooking comes down to knowing which plants are good to eat, and knowing how to hold a dead animal over a fire without burning yourself.
Science and technology have completely failed to change this equation. For all of the resources we devote to science and technology, the best it can do for us is cheese doodles, emptiness made irresistible. Just a few of these new high-tech cheese doodles, not only revive me when I’m tired and hungry, they remind me of these facts of life about food.