Real Cooking

“Hey, farmer, farmer put away that DDT now. Give me spots on my apples, but save me the birds and the bees-please.” -Joni Mitchell

All right, everyone remain calm. I’m not sure if you have become aware of this situation-and I even hesitate to point it out, what with the threat of instigating civil unrest and all.

And perhaps, if we’re lucky, the matter will have rectified itself by the time this issue of the Hillsboro Free Press goes to print.

But I feel that it’s my duty to point out to you the shortage of puffy Cheetos on our store shelves.

Have you noticed it, too? At first, I thought the persons stocking the shelves had just fallen behind or that the Cheetos truck hadn’t been able to get through to Hillsboro due to icy road conditions.

But then, as the weeks passed, I began to catch on that there was a definite pattern developing-a pattern I didn’t like.

Oh, sure, there were plenty of crunchy Cheetos to be had. And there were plentiful supplies of other brands of puffy, cheesy snacks. But puffy, Frito-Lay’s brand Cheetos were no where to be found-in any of their delicious, puffy, cheesy forms. No waffles, no zigzags, no tic-tac-toes and certainly no puffs.

A couple of weeks ago, I thought maybe this was just a local phenomenon, but when business took me to Wichita, a quick walk through Wal-Mart added to my suspicions that something was up. There I found a wall of chips loaded for holiday shopping, but not one package of Cheetos puffs was nestled among the bags of potato chips and salted pretzels.

“What is happening?” I cried to the sky. How can a staple (at least at our house) just disappear?

Surely Frito-Lay wouldn’t be crazy enough to cancel production of puffy Cheetos, would they?

Certainly the grocers of Kansas wouldn’t be banding together in the boycott of cheese puffs. Why, that would be un-American.

Periodically, I would wonder about the fate of puffy Cheetos. Being a stockholder in Pepsi, the parent company of Frito-Lay, I not only had issues with the shortage of puffs; I was concerned about the loss of revenue as well.

Besides, lunch just wasn’t the same.

I was just about ready to call someone to complain when I heard a snippet of information on one of the television news channels. It was a report on how Frito-Lay had to cut back on production of some products because they didn’t want to use genetically engineered corn in their chips.

Since at present there was a lack of “other corn meal,” some snacks would be in short supply for a brief time until the “other corn meal” could be appropriated.

OK. Vindication. It wasn’t just my paranoid imagination working overtime.

I went to my family with the information. Soon, puffs would once again grace our table. When they find the “right corn,” they’ll be in production again.

“Right corn,” my farmer-husband huffed. “Everyone better get used to the idea of genetically engineered grains and produce. They’re perfectly safe and, really, would you rather have tons of pesticide on your food?”

Well, of course not. But then again, I’m not too thrilled at the prospect of eating potatoes that glow in the dark, either.

That’s right. Recently I read about some folks who are trying to genetically engineer potatoes that, when ready to be harvested, will give off a glow. I’m just not sure.

I’ve heard of several European countries that have banned genetically engineered grains because studies have shown a correlation between the consumption of these grains and the loss of response to antibiotics in mammals.

That’s unsettling.

Not to mention the whole Monarch butterfly debate.

It’s a brave new world, but I’m not sure how brave I want to be. After all, in its day, DDT was touted as being harmless and a great boon to humanity.

I’m not against improving the production of food supply. I just say, “Proceed with caution.”

Hopefully, the bottom line of the large chemical companies and the plight of the farmer won’t combine and bring about health problems that our children have to contend with sometime in the future.

As for the puffy Cheetos shortage, I did some investigating on the Internet and came up with nothing. I even checked the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times and found nothing in their archives.

(See how well the Hillsboro Free Press keeps you apprised of the news that really matters?)

I did find that Taco Bell, another subsidiary of Pepsi, had to recall some of their taco shells because a genetically engineered corn not approved for human consumption had made its way into their processing factory. Maybe that’s what accounts for the Cheetos shortage as well, I’m not sure.

I’m sure they’ll work it out-as we all will.

The only other curious reference I found on the Net was a message posted on a junk food site from a man who had noticed a shortage in Funyuns; he couldn’t find them anywhere.

They, too, are made with corn by Frito-Lay.

“Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone?” -Joni Mitchell

* * *

I haven’t tried this recipe, but it just seemed so appropriate.

Cheetos Crusted Chicken

1 pound freshly ground chicken breast

3 tbs. finely chopped onion

2 tbs. diced canned jalapeno chilies

1/2 tsp. chili powder

1 tsp. cumin

3 tbs. bread crumbs

Chicken broth or water to moisten

1 cup crushed Cheetos

Mix chicken, bread crumbs and spices. Add enough water or broth to moisten and divide into two or three patties. Press patties into crushed Cheetos, making sure they adhere to form a crust. Pan fry in a skillet sprayed with pan spray or a small amount of vegetable oil. Fry until golden and cooked through. Serve with salsa or cheese sauce.

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