I’m writing this and my keyboard is covered in a light dusting of orange cheese. It’s caked on my fingers. It’s on my pants too, from where I tried to to wipe it off. It’s streaked a little bit leaving a mark of four fingers fragged across my leg, like some bizarre horror movie or Walking Dead episode. That’s the reality of a cheese doodle: delicious, yet flawed.
A cheese doodle is simply a cheese flavored cheese puff that has become one of the most popular snack foods in the chip aisle. Like all good food, it has a debated creation history. One story has them invented in Wisconsin as a happy accident at the Flakall Corporation which specialized in making machines for feeding livestock. One of their machines would make feed by grinding up corn so it could yield the most from every kernel. The problem with the machine was that it would sometimes clog and needed to be cleaned frequently to prevent that. Somebody thought that sending moistened corn through the machine might do the trick, but when that happened, the heat of the machine ended up cooking the corn and it exited the machine in a puffed up form. An ambitious employee took the puffs home, seasoned them and suddenly he had created what would be one of the world’s greatest snacks. There’s always that person in history who is not afraid to take that first bite of something that appears by accident. Some heroes don’t wear badges. Flakall later changed their name to Adams Corporation so people wouldn’t associate a snack food with a cattle feeding company and began selling their product to happy customers. (History via Tedium.co)
Other stories trace the history of the Cheese Doodle to New Orleans where it was sold since the 1930’s by the Elmer Candy Corporation. Then of course there’s the story of Mr. Cheez Doodle, Morrie Yohai. Mr. Yohai was president of the Old London Food Company which was the inventor of the King Kone. The company was looking for a new salty snack and became aware of a machine that processed corn meal under high pressure into a long tube shape. That’s where their version of the snack food began. And while the origin story of the cheese doodle is often argued, it is known that Yohai coined the name Cheez Doodle. Old London Food was later sold to the folks at Borden who would continue making the product under the Wise Chips brand, still under the Cheez Doodle name. (From New York Times)
While Cheez Doodles from Wise are still on the market today and a popular brand, especially in the North East, the most popular brand on the market are unquestionably Cheetos. Cheetos original crunchy cheese doodle is how the company came to fame, but in the late seventies, they started selling a puffed cheese doodle version. In our house growing up, the cheese doodle of choice was the Jax brand from Bachman. That was kind of the popular brand for cheese doodles back in the day, at least in our area. Jax are still around today, now owned by the Utz Snack Brand, and that’s the brand I went with today.
There wasn’t many other ways to celebrate cheese doodle day other than eating cheese doodles. I suppose if I ground them down, I could make some kind of mac and cheese, but I don’t think that would taste any different than a box of Kraft macaroni and cheese (which wouldn’t be a bad thing). No, to fully celebrate, I needed to get a bag and scarf them down until my fingers were caked in orange. So that’s what I did.
The issue of orange hands is really something the cheese doodle community should take more seriously. It’s costing them sales. For anyone looking for a snack while perusing the chip aisle, they are always going to hesitate before stopping at the cheese doodle. Sure, sometimes it doesn’t matter. Sometimes it’s all you want and you buy them without regret or care. For the incessant finger lickers, this too is not a problem. They see the issue of orange hands but just know that they can lick that clean in due time. That’s not a selling point for most. But for the average working person out for a quick snack product on the go, the cheese doodle dust is an issue. You can’t have it on your fingers or on your clothes. It’s like going out for ribs or wings for a business lunch. Some decorum is required. That’s why I suggest including a wet nap in every bag to help you clean up. Or maybe even a clean plastic eating glove that you use to eat your doodles and then discard with the bag (patent pending). There needs to be some research into a solution.
I was thinking back at cheese doodles and I remember sometimes buying a bag in the lunch line at school. That was always a good little break from the monotony of my every day lunch. I also thought about the issue of the orange cheese and the havoc they would play on friends with braces. That cheese dust just loved to hang out in braces. Three periods after lunch and your friends would still have orange teeth, and accompanying chip breath too. Come to think of it, it’s odd that cheese doodles are still a favorite because that chip breath smell alone will turn you away, but they are. They are just too delicious.
People will make fun of you for liking cheese doodles, but if you put them out at a party, you’d be surprised who’s diving in. They’re an easy target for some quick laughs, but then all of a sudden your hand is in the bowl (and you can’t deny it because the proof is still on your finger).
Cheese doodles are also called Cheesy Poops around my wife’s family. I’m not exactly sure why this is. I thought it may be a South Park reference, although that doesn’t seem to fit. I think that’s what Lola’s Mom and her Aunt Kathy used too call them, perhaps by accident, and their children would laugh along. It’s probably one of those stories that originated after a long day at Second Beach and has just been part of the family lore ever since. I can still say Cheesy Poops today and get a rise from the family, so often I do. I also will buy a bag on occasion for a family party and inevitably, after the cheesy poop jokes, everyone starts digging in.
Maybe it’s the bright orange color that sucks us in. So alluring, so iconic – we just want to taste it. Nonetheless, it is a snack food well worth celebration and it was a nice snack to enjoy on a lazy Sunday afternoon. I successfully avoided any cheese dust getting on the couch or my clothes, which is always a plus and it tied us over perfectly until dinner. That’s what a good snack food should do. Cheers to the delight of the cheese doodle! May they always shine in the snack aisle, may the curse of the orange dust be solved and may we continue to enjoy your airy, cheesy, crispiness for years to come (and hopefully we don’t suffer a cheesy poop).
Next Up: National Oreo Cookie Day