Sometimes it’s hard to get your family to support your dreams. Your family might dissuade you from flying over the Sahara in a hot air balloon, or opening a refuge for troubled baboons. Luckily for me, my family supports my dream to eat junk food and then write about it. My parents are my champions- this was abundantly clear when my dad presented me with various bags of Texas junk upon my arrival at the homestead.
While the UK excels at meat-flavored carbohydrate-based snacks, the U.S., particularly the Southwestern U.S., excels at cheese-flavored snacks. I’ve noticed that a cornucopia of cheese snacks are available in Texas, and the Texas grocery chain H-E-B’s cup of runneth over.
H-E-B is a cheesy poof innovator. A couple of years ago, I tasted their buffalo blue cheese poofs. I’m not usually a fan of blue cheese, but those poofs are delish, because the buffalo flavor is more pronounced than the blue cheese flavor. (I suspect that real blue cheese flavor is difficult to replicate in a processed cheesy poof). On this trip to Texas, I had the pleasure of trying H-E-B’s Hijole Cheese Balls and their Reduced Sodium Intense Cheese Puffs.
Regarding the latter, while I know it’s healthy to watch salt intake, sometimes watching salt intake has an inverse relationship with general happiness, so my natural inclination is to be wary of reduced sodium junk food. However, it’s obviously great for people on strict diets. These snacks focus on the rich, buttery flavor of cheese, rather than the savory tang imparted by good ‘ol American sodium. I didn’t mind the buttery flavor, but my family wasn’t enthusiastic about the lack of salt. These puffs were tasty, but not a huge draw.
On the other hand, the Hijole Cheese Balls are muy fantastico (nb- apparently Hijole Cheese Balls translates to Wow Cheese Balls, which is more than appropriate in this case). They combine the lime, cheese, and chili flavors that help make Mexican food delicious. They’re salty, cheesy, and slightly spicy. They have a perfect cheesy poof consistency- not rough enough to grate your palate, but not mushy enough to dissolve in your mouth like one of those biodegradable packing peanuts (I know I’m not the only person who’s been dared to eat one of those peanuts).
I’m sad that the Hijole Cheese Balls aren’t more widely available. Maybe I should import them into the UK…or maybe not, because the British may not be ready for Texas-strength cheesy poof firecrackers.
Afternoon doldrums hit the open office. Listless workers slouch into their chairs, defying ergonomics. Our protagonist initiates a mental snack calculus. She already went to Pret A Manger today. Twice in one day? The employees might become too familiar with her habits. She thought “what about Starbucks?,” but then realized that the Frappuncino happy hour promotion would likely prove too tempting. After a moment of reflection, she realized the truest option, the most hewed to her own nature, would be to go to Tesco and get some juuuunnnnkkkk.
And that is the story of how I ended up being reacquainted with my old friend Diet Dr. Pepper and meeting my new friend Walker Pops.
Walker Pops fall into the category of “British crisps designed to taste like meat.” There are a surprising number of crisps in this category. These are slightly different because of the “melted cheese” element. The Pops smell like bacon, and the initial impression is bacony, but that’s followed by a lingering cheese flavor. I should note that the ingredients do not list a particular type of cheese. Instead, “melted cheese & crispy bacon seasoning” is the fourth ingredient. Weirdly enough, they do taste specifically like melted cheese. Now THAT is science.
I enjoyed these savory meat chips, and I’d eat them again (particularly after a few beers).
In related news, Dr. Pepper just really gets me, you know? We should hang out more often, even if I have to walk all the way (i.e. 50 feet) down to Tesco to engage his company. He’s changed his name to Dr. Pepper Zero in the UK. I’m worried about his self-esteem.
The week before last, I fell ill, dear readers, and have slowly transitioned through the various stages of flu or upper respiratory infection. Everyone I encountered seemed to be sick, and this impression deepened each time I ducked to avoid uncovered coughs on public transportation. I thought I was finally rounding the last quarter mile, but then I started to feel new symptoms and a resurgence of old symptoms. A new cold has begun, much to my chagrin. Normally, I try to tackle the first signs of illness with a battery of orange juice and supplements. This tactic failed two weeks ago. So what did I do this time? I did what my body really wanted to do, which was eat almost an entire large bag of Chilli Heatwave Doritos. This is a dominant variety of Dorito here in the UK, where Doritos are made by Walkers under the PepsiCo umbrella. Why am I self-medicating with Doritos? Maybe it’s because I’m Doritos Loco.
A few years ago, when I was working long, stressful hours, I periodically visited my local 7/11 to buy a nacho trifecta- Tostitos, Queso dip, and salsa. I would mix the queso and the salsa together and indulge in nachos.* Perhaps, as a result of this, and years of snacking au vending machine, my body simply associates nacho chips with stress relief and repair. I don’t know. What I do know now is that delicious, slightly sweet, slightly hot Chilli Heatwave Doritos should not be washed down with orange juice. I think the human body knows it’s not supposed to consume that much of any one color.
Now I’ll go to bed a bit early. If I feel better tomorrow, the credit may be shared with sleep and Doritos dust.
*After a nacho hiatus of a couple months, when I finally went back to 7/11, the clerk asked me where I had been. I appreciated his concern, while simultaneously recoiling at the frequency of my stress relief nacho purchases.
Although I have a bit of a cold and I’m a bit sleepy, I am here as your humble junk food servant to celebrate National Cheetos Day. It would be remiss of me to end the day without reflecting on the deliciousness of Cheetos. Cheetos have helped me through some long and arduous days. Best catalyzed with Diet Dr. Pepper, they serve as fuel for concentration and creativity (that is, after you take care of the sticky cheese dust, because you don’t really want that getting stuck in your keyboard.*) Katy Perry has become the Patron Saint of Hot Cheetos, which many argue are even more delicious than regular Cheetos. Her influence was apparent when I arrived in London. I went to a grocery store in Sloane Square and noticed a mountain of Cheetos for sale. Upon further inspection, I noticed that they were all Hot Cheetos. I think this is due to Saint Katy’s influence. Personally, I am an equal opportunity Cheeto Lover. I must admit, however, that I haven’t yet tried some of the new Cheetos varieties, including Sweetos. Chester Cheeto should be ashamed of me. I’ll commit in advance to sampling them the next time I visit the U.S. of A.
I bid you all good night. May visions of cheesy poofs dance in your heads.
*I’ve noticed that food getting stuck in my keyboard is an issue I’ve addressed in few of my posts. Do I need a plastic cover that goes over my keyboard? Should I cover it with saran wrap? Should I post this question on Quora?
Like any good ‘Murkhan, I’ve been thinking about Super Bowl snacks, even though I won’t have a party, and I’ll probably be asleep for most of it. These facts are inconsequential. As long as I have Super Bowl snacks, I can vicariously participate in the festivities. I’ve been contemplating a new snack invention, which would involve white queso dip. But, I’m in England, and I correctly anticipated that white queso dip is not readily available here. Actually, it’s not so much the dip- I bet there are attempts at white queso here- it’s the American cheese for the dip.
I started looking for places to buy American cheese in London, and people were only talking about the yellow cheese slices used for hamburgers, etc. I’m not talking about cheese food slices in cellophane. I’m talking about this:
This type of cheese is THE BEST for making the white queso dip served in restaurants in the U.S., including, I suspect, my beloved District Taco (I miss you, Boo). But where can I find this colonial cheese in England? I think I might have to improvise. I’m going to try a combination of Dutch Gouda and Cheddar cheese. How did I come up with this combination? I got really hungry reading about American cheese, which led to this:
Nom Nom Dutch Gouda. I’ll work on my recipe tomorrow, and I’ll keep you all posted on my results!
p.s. Here’s a good article on misconceptions about American cheese: http://thecookinggeek.com/american-cheese/
I started thinking about Doritos dust, and whether one could create it at home. After a quick search, I found this recipe. My first reaction was “duh, this is also known as seasoning, not flavor powder” (See prior post). My second reaction was unbridled excitement. My third reaction was “uuuggghhh, nutritional yeast.” This recipe uses nutritional yeast instead of cheese. Obviously, it’s a vegan site, so they’re not using dairy. I like experimenting with non-dairy comfort food recipes, like mac and cheese with rice or almond milk. I’m not knocking non-dairy alternatives generally. However, I am knocking nutritional yeast as a replacement for cheese. It just doesn’t do it for me. I can definitely understand using it for this recipe, because it’s probably easier to get the Doritos dust consistency right with nutritional yeast, because it’s flaky.
I did some more research, looking for alternatives, and most of the recipes for Doritos dust on the web included nutritional yeast. I realized that it was time for me to figure out how to make real “flavor powder,” because I was all “f’ing dessicated cheese, how does that work?” (See Miracles at 1:53).
Apparently the best way to turn cheese into delicious cheesy powder is to use a dehydrator. Do people have dehydrators handy? I certainly do not. Enter Amazon.
There are a bunch of cheese powders available on Amazon. They range from “all natural” to “cheese flavor.” I looked beyond Amazon, and I found this from The Spice House. It’s all natural, but it ain’t cheap. This would be good if you want your junk food real classy-like. There’s also this white cheddar variety from King Arthur Flour. It’s also pretty classy.
During my research, I also found this very interesting New Yorker article about the history of cheese powder, it’s “opioid-like effects,” and its use by the U.S. military. It’s a good, albeit slightly depressing, read.
Because I am a stranger in a strange land, I didn’t realize these were chips (or “crisps” in the local lexicon).
Am I crazy, or does the package suggest that these are thicker, like something between a chip and a soy crisp/rice cake? Maybe I just saw what I wanted to see. Perhaps it’s because puffy snacks usually have more flavor powder? I’m using the term “flavor powder” as if it’s a technical term. Some people call it “Doritos Dust.” I just rebutted my own thesis there- Doritos aren’t puffy at all, and yet they have enough flavor powder to keep them warm during a long winter. These Cheese & Onion chips are not gilded in cheesy dust, yet they are “unmistakably” cheesy, per the description on the package. Is that really the best word they could come up with to emphasize the flavor of the chips? In the U.S., the flavor would be described as “booming cheese & onion” or “Philadelphia Cheese Steak.” Actually, the latter would be hyperbole, because these do pretty much taste- UNMISTAKABLY- like a union of cheese and onion. And not a Vegas-style rip-roaring union, but rather something more sedate, where everyone is wearing shoes.
These are good if you’re in the mood for Cheese & Onion chips. They’re more oniony than the Quavers I reviewed. However, there are so many other types of chips, er, crisps, in England- including some great salt and vinegar chips- that I don’t think I’m going to develop cravings for these in particular.
PS- Every time I typed “crisp,” I accidentally typed “crips.” I only noticed this after a read-through. I think Soy Crips hang out at Whole Foods.
Quavers are a surprise. The picture on the bag made me think they would have the texture and density of Fritos. I allowed myself to fantasize about making “Quaver pie” with artisan chili of my own invention. Blake Lively would find out about this recipe, and mention it on Preserve. If I had pulled my head out of the clouds, I would have realized that Quavers ≠ Fritos based solely on the very obvious description of Quavers as a “potato snack.” I do not think Quavers would enhance my hypothetical artisan chili, but this incompatibility does not diminish their success as a snacky snack.
Quavers are light and dissolve fairly easily, and they also deliver a very satisfying crunch, probably due to tiny air bubbles (like Munchos). They taste vaguely cheesy at first, but I think their strongest flavor is actually onion, which is two-thirds of the way down the ingredient list. I liked them. If I’m being honest, I think these would be great for people who just spent the night partying, and are winding down with a little junk food binge. This type of binge is usually preceded by a desperate scavenge, where one hopes to discover food which has otherwise proved evasive. Imagine discovering Quavers during this forage- such joy! Finding yourself surrounded by Quavers bags in the morning- a decidedly different sensation.
p.s. While writing this post, I discovered that Frito-Lay has a page dedicated to recipes made with Frito-Lay products, INCLUDING MOUNTAIN DEW. Emphasis added for obvious reasons. Instead of artisan chili, maybe I should host a dinner, and after everyone says “that was delicious,” I’ll tell them their chicken was marinated in Mountain Dew. It would be like those Folger’s ads from the 80s.
Wotsits are basically cheesy poofs, which means I hold them in esteem. Unlike other types of cheesy poofs, these do taste more like actual cheese, and less like “cheese food,” which can be a bit more…tangy.
They’re also softer and dissolve faster than more artificial varieties of cheesy poof. This is important, because one of the saddest types of unintentional self-inflicted injuries is a food-related palate abrasion. All of you Sour Patch Kid, Lemon Warhead, and jumbo cheesy poof fans know what I’m talking about. Nacho chips can also cause this problem…depending on the volume and velocity of your consumption (this sounds like a sad attempt at a “real-life” math problem). I also noticed that the Wotsits are all very evenly shaped. In short, Wotsits are the ideal cheesy poof for orderly people with sensitive mouths.