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Game Over by PES

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Revenge by Lernert and Sander

Poor Girl Gourmet by Amy McCoy

The First Taste by Saatchi & Saatchi and Heckler

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flatten by Kay van Vree and Hugo de Kok

Ways of Cheddar Chex Mix by Megan Kimble

Menupoems 2014

Chocolate Bunny by Lernert and Sander

The Traveller Eggs by Nora Silva

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Fermentophone by Joshua Pablo Rosenstock

Lycopersicum by Uli Westphal

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10,000 Items or Less by Blair Neal

Menupoems 2013

How to Explain It to My Parents by Lernert & Sander

The Burger Foundation by Michelle Ellsworth

Bebe Coca-Cola by Décio Pignatari

Tournedo Gorge by Kathi Inman Berens

Food Remix by Michelle Ellsworth

Interview with Darra Goldstein

Eating on Berry Street by Emily Nemens

In the Most Unlikely Places by Jason Bell

The Birthplace of the Tomato by David Wanczyk

Pot Luck by Cindy McCain

Secret Foods

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Ways of Cheddar Chex Mix

by Megan Kimble, with images by Dave Mondy

May 2014    

At the 7-Eleven on the corner of 22nd and Park in South Tucson, we are told, we the patrons of 7-Eleven, that our cashier carries little cash—we may request up to 10 dollars cash back on a debit card purchase. We are videotaped as we swipe our cards and pick up our bags of Cheddar Chex Mix from the counter.

I wonder: Will I chew the Cheddar Chex Mix? One, two, three, four, five, six—I act it out. Six seems sufficient. Six chews is not many but, of course, Cheddar Chex Mix is not meant to be chewed—it’s been chewed for us. According to Gail Civille, the founder of Sensory Spectrum, two decades ago Americans typically chewed a mouthful as many as twenty-five times before swallowing. Today, on average, we chew each bite ten times. (Does Cheddar Chex drive down the average?)

A year ago—a year before 7-Eleven—I stopped eating processed foods. I stopped eating processed food for many reasons and also because I wanted to see if I could do it—could go a year without processed. Today, a year later, I will stop not eating processed foods. Today, I will stop not eating Cheddar Chex Mix.

Three weeks before the today of Cheddar Chex Mix, a sort-of friend had told a better friend who told me: “Every time I talk to her I just want to go home and eat a whole bag of Doritos, just to piss her off.”

This made me feel bad.

My friend was unconvinced I should care.

I protested—“Really, I don’t talk about processed foods that much. He’s the one who brings it up. ‘How’s your year unprocessed going?’ he always asks.”

Great. It is always cheerfully great! A year without processed foods is not tempted by Chex or chocolate—it is a year of sugar-free, wheat-free, additive-free and it is great.

Enriched flour (wheat flour, malted barley flour, niacin, iron, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), Degermed Yellow Corn Meal, Whole Wheat, Vegetable Oil (soybean and/or rice bran), Sugar, Whey. Contains 2% or less of: Salt, Buttermilk Powder, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Corn Syrup Solids, sour cream (cream, nonfat milk, cultures), Natural and Artificial Flavor, Color (yellows 5 & 6 lake, yellow 5 & 6, and other color added), High Fructose Corn Syrup, Malt Syrup, Barley Malt Extract, Baking Soda, Yeast, Onion Powder, Distilled Monoglycerides, Margarine (partially hydrogenated soybean oil, water, salt, mono and diglycerides, whey, soy lecithin, citric acid, colored with beta-carotene, Vitamin A palmitate, natural flavor), Calcium Carbonate, Trisodium Phosphate, Yellow Corn Flour, Fried Cheddar Cheese (milk, cheese cultures, salt, enzymes), Soy Lecithin, Maltodextrin, Autolyzed Yeast Extract, Spice. Freshness preserved by BHT and Sodium Metabisulfite. —does anyone read this shit?

Even after I type out all the ingredients contained in the components of Cheddar Chex Mix, and it takes awhile, six or seven minutes and still I don’t think I spelled everything right, after I double-check this list against the tiny font of the ingredient list crammed below the Nutrition Facts—even after I calculate that I’m holding 1,040 calories worth of Chex—still, I want to eat the entire bag. (There is some satisfaction in this iron-will delay, the typing-of-ingredients before ripping open the bag. After a year, what is six minutes?)

What is a chex? The chex in the mail! He chex his pockets for his keys. She chex her email while she waits for him to call. If only our chex still had their balances.

It is how Cheddar would taste if a hunk of cheese sat on your tongue for hours, dissolved into your mouth for days. The salvia creeping around its edges, caramelizing and dissolving the flavor into something essential, something concentrated and compact and powdered. If the acid of your salvia chewed through a block of Cheddar cheese and you did not swallow it. If the block of Cheddar dried and crumbled and dusted the surface of a salt-flavored cracker, if it blew through the pores of an airy Chex cereal. It is a Cheddar Flavor Experience. It is a Bag of Interesting.

It is easy to conflate a desire. This bag of Cheddar Chex Mix sitting on my desk, the one I haven’t opened. But when I do, it might be so good I won’t be able to stop. It’ll begin as crunchy but it’ll soon be smooth, rhythmic, hand to mouth, mouth to body, body to mind. It will cloy, it will clutch, it will cover your mouth, coat your tongue, and then you will lick the leftovers, you will rip apart the bag.

A chex is nostalgia. In college, we fell asleep in one bed, three roommates lined up like canned sardines. Fully clothed and on top of the covers, pyramids of Cheddar Chex Mix piled between us like anthills. If we’d even have rolled over slightly, shifted around in the night, we would have ground the orange powder into lavender sheets, smeared crumbs across a comforter. Or maybe we should have, should have ground it down into the fibers of the sheets, thrown Cheddar Chex Mix into the air like confetti, a celebration of this time in our lives. When we could drink beers at the Border Bar and then bound home, bound-bound-bound, we bounded, three together, on these warm nights before we left them, the warm nights of confetti snacks and sardine sleeping.

CCM exists—can I call you CCM?—because we haven’t been satisfied during our evenings out. CCM exists because we leave with high hopes. CCM exists because of the feeling of 2 a.m., the feeling of hunger that is deeper than a belly. As long as we are unsatisfied, as long as we are desperate, there will be CCM.

Food engineers are successful to the extent they catalyze this stress-induced need for indulgence. Sugar, salt, fat—those are the triggers. Sugar, fat and salt, combined in intriguing ways, create foods that are “high in hedonic value, which gives us pleasure,” writes David Kessler in The End Of Overeating. He asks a food consultant:

“Do you design food specifically to be highly hedonic?”

“‘Oh, absolutely,’ he replied without a moment’s hesitation. ‘We try to bring as much of that into the equation as possible.’”

Did I fall for Cheddar Chex Mix or did it become itself to fall for me?

There is—is there—a time in life for CCM. A bag of Cheddar Chex Mix is like a horror movie. It is an archetypal experience. The archetype of this experience is scripted; we know what to expect. That expectation is crucial—the experience of an expectation fulfilled is comforting. If there is a time for Cheddar Chex Mix, it is a rare one. That time is not a rational one, not a time to consider labels and lists—it is an irrational snack for an irrational hour. We all have desperation and Cheddar Chex Mix feeds our desperation. My desperation is quiet and orange, hand-mouth-hand-mouth, quiet-crunch and orange.



  Megan Kimble lives Tucson, Arizona, where she works as the managing editor of Edible Baja Arizona, a local foods magazine serving Tucson and the borderlands (and one of 80 Edible magazines published nationally). She's a regular contributor to the Los Angeles Times, and her articles and essays have appeared in High Country News, The Bellevue Literary Review, Sage Magazine, and Gulf Coast. Her book manuscript—titled Unprocessed, about the year she stopped eating processed food—is represented by Mackenzie Brady at the Charlotte Sheedy Literary Agency. Visit her at megankimble.com Images by Dave Mondy.