Frankensnacks – those deranged hybrids of foods or foods with abnormal preparations that sound good the moment you hear them, so very wrong when you think about them reasonably, but not so wrong that you wouldn’t try them, given half a chance. Deep fried Oreos, cronuts, even the now quaint s’mores can all be classified as a station upon the franken-spectrum.
A frankensnack should go either one of two ways: it should be so evil, so violently decadent, that you don’t regret eating the thing even though you are fairly sure it will rot your guts…oh, immediately. Or, conversely, it should be so intensely disgusting and abhorrent to regularly-functioning tastebuds that their reputation alone bankrupts them.
I regret to inform that 7-11’s long awaited Doritos Loaded achieves nether.
What makes a good tortilla chip? First there’s the crunch, which is completely tactile. You can’t taste crunch, but there is a sense that some flavors go well with foundations that have that snap. Secondarily, the key ingredient to the traditional Doritos Nacho Cheese chip is salt. You would think it was “cheesiness” or “orangey-ness” but what makes you start with a couple of the neon-rust-colored, and end up finishing the whole bag, is the saltiness. It is that unearthly color that makes you think “cheese-like substance” over anything else.
Now, what makes a good stuffed cheese product? That is usually about contrasts. The breading on the outside of a mozzarella stick is warm, but not so warm as to burn your mouth. The near-liquefied cheese inside likely won’t burn you either, but has achieved a loose viscous identity that is entirely opposed to the bready skin containing it. In terms of flavor, mozzarella – especially mass-produced mozzarella – is pretty bland. The herbs in the crust do the majority of the heavy flavor lifting.
That should be a natural place for a Doritos infused crust, but it totally isn’t. The cheese inside is probably more on the order of Velveeta than cheddar, not mozzarella at all. It’s a dominant flavor and a runnier consistency. That outer crust, now more thin and soggy than chip-crunchy, needed to pump that orange crap up to 20 to make this a horror hike worth putting the backpack on for. It doesn’t.
What you get in your package of four wedges is a snack food that is too bland to blow your lid off, but too adequate to be a real anti-food. You’ll not throw them away in complete disdain, but you won’t be aching to buy them ever again. That’s bad news for 7-11, especially in terms of what this and every other snack is supposed to accomplish — to make you buy a very large soda to wash it down.
Without that scary amount of saltiness, the need to quench a thirst is never achieved in full and so leveraging market synergy falls short. It wouldn’t be the first time. After several summers of movie merch tie-ins, manifesting in specialized cups, straws and geegaws, the marketing whizzes at the home office probably were fired en mass. Their offices would need to be converted to storage space for the millions of unsold Cowboys and Aliens cups, after all. Since then there has been a steady stream of specialty “flavors” of Mountain Dew…oh, I’m sorry. Mtn. Dew. Excuuuse meeee…
There was, last summer, the adoption of Shaquille O’Neal’s fruit-
flavored-inspired-mimicking-mocking Shaq Soda. You had seven or so different flavors, and each had a unique image of the basketball legend mugging for the camera, and a few folks had to have been freaked out by Shaq sticking out his tongue, like a deranged prankster, daring you to drink up. Not surprisingly, these were stocked on the discount endcaps well past October.
Yet you can’t stick Doritos Loaded cheese wedges on an endcap. Chemically, they probably will survive just fine. Radiation can’t degrade them when, visually, there’s more radiation going out than coming in. But still, you need to pretend these require refrigeration of some kind, and without that ruse, you’re sunk. As a foodstuff whose primary asset is the shock value of its unholy union of two rather unhealthy lifestyle choices, it winds up never achieving maximum twisted affection or stomach-aching revulsion. It’s just a really, really orange-looking batter-dipped cheese wedge…and that’s just sad, like a frankensnack engulfed in the orange flames of a burning windmill.