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El Dorado (“the gilded one”) was a legendary tribal chief in Guyana who covered himself with gold dust.

Doritos are crispy, tiny tortillas covered in gold dust. Coincidence? I think not! In general, I am suspicious of Frankenflavors that come from a lab. Just consider the following actual wording from that Titan of consumer flavor science, IFF:

Our exceptional cheese, cream, and butter flavors result from proprietary processes developed over years of research. For cheese profiles, IFF starts with actual ripened cheeses and isolates the components that give each variety its flavor impact, aroma, and mouthfeel. We create cream and butter flavors using fermentation and biological processes, which are monitored and carefully supervised by expert biochemists.

It is something of a relief to know that they start with “actual ripened cheeses.” Unfortunately, the end product is all too often like the “butter” in microwave popcorn (or indeed theater popcorn), utter anathema to my nose and palate. Not because it is a substitute per se, but because it tastes and smells unpleasantly engineered. Fake butter flavor is not a taste and scent created for its own potential to delight, but a way to cut costs and increase shelf-life for the manufacturer.

The Dorito chip, created in 1964, antedates the true Frankenfood revolution. It uses real Romano cheese to create that hit of addictive umami. MSG and two other chemical-sounding compounds boost the saltiness, and there is added color. Having reveled in Doritos and other neon cheese as a young child (Velveeta and chili beans! Easy Cheese in a can!), I’m afraid I cannot help but associate that bright orange hue with a salty, savory endorphin rush.

Being something of a traditionalist, I spurn the alternative flavors, though I admit that some are intriguing from a cultural perspective. Until I researched this post, I was unaware that corn chip aficionados in the US and Canada have access to a flavor known as Intense Pickle. (I am reminded of a cat I once knew, who was Too Evil To Die.) In seafood-loving Japan, they have Clam Chowder Doritos. In the UK, they have “Doritos Jacked,” which are 40% larger than the regular-sized chips. This seems superfluous but reassuring, like Trojan Magnums.

This article in the NYT explains exactly why Doritos are so mouthwatering and why you can’t stop with only one. They are the snack food equivalent of the Las Vegas slot machine, with its seductive system of rewards. By the way, has anyone noticed that WordPress has an analogous system of tasty Pavlovian rewards in place to keep bloggers writing that next post?

I rarely eat Doritos, since Dorito breath resists toothpaste and mouthwash until the next day. And once I open a bag, it’s too hard to stop. Lately another chip has claimed my affections almost exclusively, but that’s a topic for another post. My question is, what is the best beverage to accompany Doritos? The easy answer is a cold lager, but I wonder if any wine could fill the bill. Maybe it would be something weird, like a sweet wine, since I can imagine the sweetness balancing the overwhelming salt in the chips… I hate to admit it, but it might have to be Frankenwine.

Check out Food Junk’s reviews of Doritos, including the Japanese Salami Doritos and Anchovy and Garlic Doritos flavors.