Food Friday! Caught in the marketing crunch.

Indignity Vol. 4, No. 89

Food Friday! Caught in the marketing crunch.

FOOD FRIDAY: The Best Doritos In the Seventh Grade

NOT LONG AGO, my younger son, a seventh-grader, came home and declared that he'd found the best Doritos flavor of all. They were Spicy Sweet Chili Doritos, the ones in the purple bag, he said. Yesterday, while waiting to check out at the neighborhood supermarket, I spotted the purple bag on the shelf. I brought it home and today, after school, we ate some on the balcony. Then we discussed the results via Gchat. 

A very purple bag of SPICY SWEET CHILI Doritos, with product art of some Dorito-triangles in flames.

Tom Scocca, Indignity: OK, so I got these Spicy Sweet Chili Doritos because you said they were the best flavor of Doritos. Now you say that's the consensus in the middle school, that these are the top Doritos?

Dominic Scocca-Ho, age 12: Sort of.

Indignity: There's a dispute?

Dominic: Not really. Many people like the flavor, but maybe some of them wouldn't say that it's "the best" Dorito flavor out there.

Indignity: But you would, or anyway you did.

Dominic: Well, yes, but also it was only recently my first time trying them, so I might've been a bit biased at the time

Indignity: Where did you discover them?

Dominic: At basketball camp thing whenever the last school break was, I would go out with a couple other people for lunch, and I got those chips for a buy-one-get-one free type deal.

Indignity: At a corner store?

Dominic: Yeah, a deli at about 91st and Broadway?

Indignity: Did you get any real food, or just two bags of chips for the price of one?

Dominic: I got a bacon, egg, and cheese and a variety of different drinks each day.

Indignity: Nourishing, nice work. Anyway, these chips are billed as "Spicy Sweet Chili" but the first flavor that struck me was that they were kind of sour.

Dominic: Yeah

Indignity: Or "tart."

Dominic: That is something that I liked about them as well. 

And typically that's a thing that you'll notice with a lot of popular chips these days.

They'll be lime and chili or whatever, but they'll be spicy and sour.

And it doesn't taste bad.

Indignity: I'm not even judging this as positive or negative, but they really seemed to make the saliva kick in.

Dominic: Yes, that is also something that, now that you mention it, does seem to be a recurring fact in many different chips.

Indignity: Usually "mouth-watering" is just a way people say something tastes good, but here it's its own isolated phenomenon. Someone engineered these chips to trigger the saliva glands.

Dominic: Yeah.


But like why?

I guess maybe it makes the flavors of spicy and sour more appealing?

Indignity: It makes your body act like it's enjoying the chips before you even have an opinion about whether you enjoy them. I mean, they're pretty good chips. But.

Dominic: Yeah.

So maybe the engineering got me.

Maybe I fell for it.

Indignity: I don't know that there's a way to assess chips outside of their engineering, really, is there?

Dominic: True

Indignity: The Dorito is a scientifically advanced product. I went to look up how old they are, because I correctly remembered them being brand-new when I was young—or at least the Nacho Cheese ones were new—and it turns out according to Wikipedia they got a complete overhaul in the '90s? 

In the costliest redesign in Frito-Lay history, in 1994 the company spent $50 million to redesign Doritos. Roger J. Berdusco, the vice president of tortilla chip marketing, said a primary reason for the change was "greater competition from restaurant-style tortilla chips, that are larger and more strongly seasoned".[11] The design change was the result of a two-year market research study that involved 5,000 chip eaters. The new design made the chips 20% larger, 15% thinner, and gave each chip rounded corners, making it easier to eat and reducing the scrap resulting from broken corners. Each chip was also given more seasoning, resulting in a stronger flavor. The redesigned chips were released in four flavors beginning in January 1995.

Dominic: Hmmmm.


That makes sense.

I don't know how I feel about that though.

Indignity: I wasn't eating a lot of chips at the time, I guess, or consuming a lot of media with chip advertisements, so if I ever knew this I forgot all about it. The idea that Doritos used to be pointier kind of feels correct to my mouth, now that I read it.

It's of a piece with how the nacho cheese flavor always seemed a little skunky to me.

Dominic: LOL

That's actually really funny.

But like

I don't know how to feel.

Like it's good to eat and I like it

but also consumer mass marketing and engineering got me

Indignity: You're in seventh grade, bud. Your friends are wearing Crocs. It's just the water you swim in.

Dominic: Yeah, and I don't love it.

Indignity: Don't yuck your own yum. Honestly, salivary manipulation aside, these chips don't seem as addictive or exploitative as a lot of snack foods. I liked eating them but I didn't feel the urge to crawl inside the bag, eat everything there, and lick up the dust.

But I'm glad you brought them to my attention.

Dominic: True.

You are welcome.

Indignity: Still think Cool Ranch is probably a better flavor.

Dominic: OK, that's fair, but I haven't had Cool Ranch in a long time.

Indignity: Store's right across the avenue and halfway up the block.

Dominic: True, I want a drink at some point soon anyways.

Indignity: Look for the fig bars while you're there.

Dominic: OK.

But I also just had like stuff from the bake sale.

I mean it wasnt that much stuff, but I do need more money.

Indignity: There's always tomorrow

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I'm All Cranked Up About My WHIRLY-POP Popcorn

POPCORN IS THE best snack, it is healthy, you can make it at home, and it doesn’t have nacho cheese-dust all over it like a Nacho Cheese Dorito, which is really the best snack, but anyway, popcorn is good! Make it at home! Healthy! It fills you up!

I consider myself very good at stovetop popcorn in a big pot, but it’s constant vigilance, and I’m not a hundred percent. I end up with unpopped corns, or I burn it a little because I got distracted by Saturday Night Live, which is usually when I am making popcorn, and yes, I have had a few, that's why I want a goddamn snack at 12:15 a.m.

I got this thing called a WHIRLEY-POP as a gift, somebody spotted one at a thrift store and gave it to me, because I have had WHIRLEY-POPped popcorn before, and I was interested in the contraption, but I'm a cheapskate and didn't want to buy one new. It's aluminum, very light, it has a wood handle and a crank for turning a little contraption inside that keeps the corns moving on the bottom of the popper. My Whirley-Pop makes the most perfect popcorn I have ever made, fully-popped corns, delightful. I have used it several times, and the operating instructions are super-specific, but really simple and easy. Every time, I have popped all of the corns, and nothing got burned.

A big bowl of popcorn that I made with my Whirley-Pop
Perfect popcorn

You dump the cooking oil and the popcorn in at the same time and you just turn the handle until it becomes too hard to turn—you will absolutely feel the change, and then you’re done. It’s perfect! 

I am not making any money telling you Whirley-Pop is good, that's not how we endorse stuff here at Indignity, so if you read and don't subscribe, consider a paid subscription.

OK, commercial for Indignity is over, back to popcorn!

Corn-fed: They bang you for shipping & handling for the "Free*" Popcorn Party Set, which is two batches of product and some dopey paper serving containers. Not worth it. The other stuff, the weird strains of popcorn and flavor dust, looks okay.

I was able to register my Whirley-Pop with the company, and they are sort of a cult, with all the special products. I tried one of their kits that has special flavored oil and antique corns or something, but it’s not my thing, all the flavor-powder and super-orange-colored oil. My deal is I will Whirley-Pop some regular supermarket popcorn in olive and/or canola and/or avocado oil, dump it into a bowl, salt and pepper the fuck out of it, maybe add melted butter and/or some brewers yeast and/or grated parm. Perfect.

If you care about popcorn, you probably have your favorite way to make it. I know some people swear by those silicone microwave bowls, and I know there are people who have vintage “air poppers” from the ’80s, and they work great, but that is some dry-ass popcorn. I know you can put stuff on after, but it’s still got this dry-ass base thing going on, not for me.

Screenshot of THE POPPER website showing an expensive-looking popper with the WHIRLEY-POP-type crank on the top instead of the side. The Popper $199.00 Designed from premium stainless steel, Popsmith's stovetop Popper merges durability with style for the modern snacker.  Using your own kernels or our all-inclusive popcorn making kits, you'll enjoy popcorn that's superior in flavor and rich in nostalgia in less than five minutes."
'Rich in nostalgia,' yeah, you'l feel nostalgic for your former money!

What cracks me up is this company out there right now selling this thing for two hundred bucks! You can get a Whirley-Pop for around 40 bucks, but also, if you go to thrift stores that have kitchen stuff, you might score.

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New York City, May 23, 2024

★★★★ At school time, on the radar, the city was in a gap or fork between big storms inland and smaller ones toward the ocean. Around 9:30, though, the dark arrived directly. Some people were walking under umbrellas while others still moved around normally. Opening the window let in a puff of cool air and the patter of arriving rain. The patter swelled to a roar, with thunder growling over it. The screens in the front window were saturated, blotting out most of the view, but already there were glimpses of blue in the west. The dogwood blooms, brightened now to creamy white, drooped a little in the remaining rain. The sun came out, gave way for a while to what the weather app said was another shower, and then came fully back again. An open-topped tour bus drove up Central Park West. Fallen catkins clung to the moss on the wall of the park. The air was damp and earthy, and the rain was only beginning to bake off into something stifling. Starlings burred in the undergrowth. A mallard drake dipped down under the inlet of the Pool and came up glistening. The mallard hen paddled in a curve around it, splashing loudly all the while. A smallish, previously unnoticeable tree revealed itself to be a magnolia, its ripe, swollen white buds just peeking open at the tips. The dirt trailing off the path toward the water was sorted into fluvial deposits of separate texture and color. In the long bright hours after dinner, a 30-block walk seemed more appealing than the subway. The late sun laid shining gold strips down the cross street, and a cloud of gnats sparkled in it. Cirrus clouds caught some of the warm tones in their white. A red tile cornice in midblock was out of the sun but its color was still vivid. The sun, sinking lower, poured along 96th Street and painted the building fronts on 95th. Restaurant chatter swelled from open windows on the left and dining sheds on the right to meet in a clamor on the sidewalk. Framed in 86th Street was a bank of purple cloud, with orange cracks burning through it. 

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CLICK ON THIS box to enjoy today's Indignity Morning Podcast:

Indignity Morning Podcast No. 281: Not a good word choice.
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WE PRESENT INSTRUCTIONS in aid of the assembly of a sandwich selected from Mrs. Ericsson Hammond's Salad Appetizer Cook Book, by Maria Matilda Ericsson Hammond. Published in 1924, and now in the Public Domain and available at for the delectation of all.

Chaufroid Sandwich de Caviar au Tomate a la Lydie
For Six Persons

Twelve slices of bread, two tablespoons of butter, six slices of tomatoes, a teaspoon of caviar for each, chaudfroid sauce, cayenne pepper and salt.

How to Make It. Slice the bread very thin, cut out with a round medium cutter and spread the bread with the butter. Cut the tomatoes in thin slices; put one slice on each of six sandwiches and sprinkle with pepper and salt. Put the other slice of bread on the top that has first been cut out in the center with a smaller round cutter. Put them on the broiler and chaudfroid. Decorate them all around with some of the sauce colored with orange coloring and small diamonds of truffles. When ready to serve fill the center with the caviar. Arrange in the form of a ring on a platter and garnish with parsley in the center. Serve before the soup.

If you decide to prepare and attempt to enjoy a sandwich inspired by this offering, be sure to send a picture to 

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Supplies are really and truly running low of the second printing of 19 FOLK TALES, still available for gift-giving and personal perusal! Sit in the gathering heat with a breezy collection of stories, each of which is concise enough to read before the thunderstorms start.

HMM WEEKLY MINI-ZINE, Subject: GAME SHOW, Joe MacLeod’s account of his Total Experience of a Journey Into Television, expanded from the original published account found here at Hmm DailyThe special MINI ZINE features other viewpoints related to an appearance on, at, and inside the teevee game show Who Wants to Be A Millionaire, available for purchase at SHOPULA.

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