Thursday, October 13, 2011

Diasporic Dining XXVII: A Word to the Wise

Andrew F. Smith, according to a recent Times obit, is the author of The Encyclopedia of Junk Food and Fast Food. "He widely gets the credit for Doritos," the Times, quotes Smith as saying about the recently deceased Arch West ("Arch West, Who Helped Create Doritos Corn Chips, Is Dead at 97" 9/28/11).  A spokesman for Frito-Lay, who the Times also quotes, was more hesitant in giving credit where credit is due, saying, “As a company there’s never one person to invent or is the mother or father of a given product.” This is the first any of you has probably heard of the hive mentality at Frito-Lay. Who ever thought that Frito-Lay was like one of those ant colonies that are studied in close-up on The Discovery Channel? In this regard the obit is an exercise in contradiction. On the one hand you plainly have a company with machines that account for the 5 billion in sales that make Doritos their “second-best seller.” On the other you have a solitary man thinking up new ideas. The Times quotes Mr. West’s daughter Jane Hacker describing how the family, on holiday in San Diego, stopped at "a little shack restaurant where these people were making a fried corn chip." The rest, as they say, is history, and for lovers of Doritos the Times obit, with its citations from the Smith tome, is a wellspring of recondite knowledge and observation about the effect of phenomena like Taco Bell on the advent of Doritos. Suffice it to say that the cheesy and spicy taste of the Dorito, which first went into production in 1964, was a rebellion against the quietism of the '50s, when Americans imbibed a numbing variety of less distinctive junk foods. Eating potato chips might have been practical, but it wasn’t always the Wise thing to do. Arch West changed that.

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