creators.com opinion web
Liberal Opinion Conservative Opinion
Lenore Skenazy
Lenore Skenazy
23 Oct 2014
(Dirty) Thought Crimes

A man in Britain has been convicted for his fantasies. Robul Hoque, 39, was found guilty of downloading "… Read More.

16 Oct 2014
Halloween Desperation

Sometimes you just have to marvel at the endless innovation of the marketing world. Say your job is to peddle … Read More.

2 Oct 2014
Cloning Love

Google weird things late at night, as some of us do, and you will find the websites dedicated to pet cloning. … Read More.

Goodbye, Mr. Chip

Comment

All too recently, a great American inventor who single-handedly transformed pop culture with his unique ability to make us want what we didn't even KNOW we wanted died.

And so did Steve Jobs.

A week or so before the Apple visionary's demise came the death of Arch West. He was 97. Even if you don't know his name, you know his chip, and it wasn't made of silicon. West invented the Dorito.

That was back in the '60s, when Frito-Lay was content with its Frito Bandito and, ay-yi-yi-yi, his Fritos corn chips — crispy, thick and curling like a bag full of Ripley's Believe It or Not fingernails. (Or maybe you never saw them that way. Lucky you.) The company also dominated America's taste buds with the Lay part of its empire: the fabulous potato chip, crispy, thin, gently arching like a bulimic ballerina. (And maybe you just saw them as salty potato slices.) Anyway, between these two marvels, the people at the company didn't think they needed another chip. Then West, a marketing exec at the company, told them that oh, yes, they did.

West got the idea on a family vacation to Southern California — some obits say Mexico — when the group stopped at a snack stand and ordered a bag of fried tortilla bits. West took these addictive crunchers and sprinkled them with the stuff of dreams (and ruined white shirts): cheese dust.

Today, Doritos is a nearly $5 billion brand. The chips come in more than 20 flavors, including Late Night All Nighter Cheeseburger, which may refer to eating a cheeseburger during an all-nighter or possibly to pulling an all-nighter as a result of a cheeseburger eaten earlier.

What is slightly disturbing about the demise of their inventor is not the fact that it makes you wonder, "Why bother eating whole-wheat quinoa crisps when you can make just shy of 100 by not only eating but CREATING the junkiest junk food alive?" Nor is it all THAT disturbing that West's coffin allegedly was showered with Doritos after being lowered into the grave.

(No word on a mound of guacamole.) No, what's disturbing is that West is being honored as the creator of a snack food that was already hugely popular before he sampled his first bagful.

Yet this is what we do: We celebrate the person or company that takes an age-old food or story or practice or thing and gives it a new, non-generic identity. Instead of "fried tortilla," it's a Dorito. Instead of "meat between two slices of bread," it's a sandwich, thanks to the Earl of same. And how about the rather ancient idea of kids twirling barrel rings around their middles? Do we call those anything other than Hula-Hoops now? The goofy fill-in-the-blank game that kids used to write themselves? Now it's Mad Libs. The age-old flying pie tin is a Frisbee, which rhymes with Disney, which, for its part, took every folk tale already out there, from "Snow White" to "Sleeping Beauty," and not only claimed it as its own but also now goes after anyone else suspected of trading on the Disney version of same.

Do the folks who pluck ideas from pop culture really deserve the same acclaim as actual inventors? Maybe not quite. Yet we do owe them a thanks for getting the snack or game or MP3 player to prime time, often by adding a sprinkling of genius — such as cheese dust.

Lenore Skenazy is the author of "Free-Range Kids: How to Raise Safe, Self-Reliant Children (Without Going Nuts with Worry)" and "Who's the Blonde That Married What's-His-Name? The Ultimate Tip-of-the-Tongue Test of Everything You Know You Know — But Can't Remember Right Now." To find out more about Lenore Skenazy (lskenazy@yahoo.com) and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

COPYRIGHT 2011 CREATORS.COM



Comments

0 Comments | Post Comment
Already have an account? Log in.
New Account  
Your Name:
Your E-mail:
Your Password:
Confirm Your Password:

Please allow a few minutes for your comment to be posted.

Enter the numbers to the right:  
Creators.com comments policy
More
Lenore Skenazy
Oct. `14
Su Mo Tu We Th Fr Sa
28 29 30 1 2 3 4
5 6 7 8 9 10 11
12 13 14 15 16 17 18
19 20 21 22 23 24 25
26 27 28 29 30 31 1
About the author About the author
Write the author Write the author
Printer friendly format Printer friendly format
Email to friend Email to friend
View by Month
Authorís Podcast
Marc Dion
Marc DionUpdated 27 Oct 2014
Brent Bozell
Linda Chavez
Linda ChavezUpdated 24 Oct 2014

22 Apr 2007 Loners Aren't Losers

27 Mar 2008 Are You a Gov We Could Love? Take This Quiz

10 Jul 2014 Laws We Need Now