Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Ay yi yi yi


I am the Frito Bandito....

Well no, I am not. But I used to sing the song and I still really (REALLY) like Fritos.

In a bit of mid-1960s political naivete, the Frito-Lay corporation (based in Dallas, Texas no less) had a mustachioed bandito who was constantly tricking people out of their bags of Fritos. This eventually offended people who had enough commercial clout to get the ads pulled, although reportedly the Bandito image was not considered widely offensive by "the Hispanic viewing public.".

I can't say - maybe it was the non-viewing public who had their snack chips in a wad?

Frito-Lay eventually pulled the ads and stopped using the song on TV - but that didn't stop us from singing it with gusto in schoolyards or lunchrooms, not for years. An entire generation of Texans grew up thinking the song that begins "Ay, yi yi yiiii" is only an advertisement for delicious corn chips and not "Cielito Lindo". (This might explain why Cielito Lindo never made it big on the karaoke circuit.)

This corporate cultural insensitivity is made all the more interesting when you discover the inventor of the corn chip was one Gustavo Olguin. In an article for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Bud Kennedy reports Olguin emigrated from Mexico to San Antonio to escape persecution for his political cartoons. While in San Antonio he was a soccer coach as well as a snack food innovator, but he eventually sold his fledgling corn chip business to one Elmer Doolin for a paltry $30. Speculation is that Gustavo became homesick and simply decided to go back across the border.

Doolin, to give credit where due, did change the recipe and process slightly, and came up with the wonderful name, "Frito". His salty fried corn chips were the entree to bring him top billing in the eventual snack food giant, Frito-Lay. Just to show the invention of the Frito was no fluke, Doolin is also credited as inventor of the Cheeto. Go Elmer!

Doolin came by his snack food wizardry honestly. Doolin's mother, according to some sources, was the one who took the corn chip to a higher level with the original concept for Frito Pie.

Frito Pie, in case you are amongst the piteously uninitiated, is an amazing concoction comprised of a bag of Fritos, a cup or so of hot chili, grated cheese and chopped onions. You take the bag, open it veeerryyy carefully, pour in the rest of the ingredients, grab a Spork and try not to hurt yourself. Purists say that is IT, others add mustard. Me, I like it either way.

The bags aren't as thick as they used to be. Frito Bag Puncture related injuries are a serious deterrent for some but only go to show who's a "real Texan" and who's a "damned Yankee" say afficianados.

Little known sociological statistic - a standardized beer/Yankee slur ratio runs 3/1 except during football season when the "Yankee" epithet is freely substituted for by filling in the name of any team stupid enough to be scoring more points than said beer drinker's. Ah, the sporting life.

I digress.

Let me sum up our story so far.
1) Gustavo's gift must never be forgotten. Close the border? How stupid would THAT be!
2) No matter what amazing thing you have done, your Mom can probably think of something even better to do with it. (call home!)

The end to this crunchy little story is that in doing my "research" I developed such a deeply amazing craving for Fritos, I knew I had to eat some. Pronto.

I didn't have the ingredients on hand for Frito Pie (a mistake that won't happen again I assure you) but I did have some leftover guacamole and the rest of a bag of Frito Scoops.

As everybody who has ever wrangled avocados knows, left exposed to air they turn brown in about 3 seconds. No matter how carefully you treat leftover guacamole, unless you bathe it in lime juice or cover it with plastic wrap actually touching the guac, creating an airlock of sorts, you are simply adding an unnecessary step where the container takes up space in your refrigerator until you are forced to throw it out. Hastily re-refrigerating guacamole without taking time to protect it from the air is a self flagellating way to help you recall days later how good that guacamole WOULD have tasted, if only....

Which is what I'd done with my last batch of guac. Following the rules, it duly turned brown in the time it took to type out this sentence. In my debilitated Frito Crave craze, I was SO determined to have something for my Frito Scoops to lend function to their form, I threw caution to the wind. I hurriedly scraped all the brown off and ate the guac. My only brief nod towards food safety was the addition of "tex-mex clorox" - some wickedly hot salsa.

My husband called and innocently asked what I was doing. "I am eating lunch", I told him. "Honey." I asked sweetly, "will eating brown avocado kill you?".

My husband is a brain surgeon. Our family and friends routinely refer questions about the potential lethality of a practice to him.

"That depends" he answered cautiously "on why it is brown in the first place.".

After a brief romantic exchange on the relative harmlessness of eating oxidized fruit, he rang off and I licked the final remnants of guacamole to eat with one last Frito as a chaser. But not before advising him, "If you come home and I am dead on the floor, you will know to list Cause of Death as Eating Brown Guacamole on the certificate.".

See why he calls home to talk to me on his lunch break? How fun a couple are we?

Whatever. It was worth it.

Thank you Gustavo, wherever you are. And Elmer. Ay yi yi salute you.

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