Some may find this Extra Toasty Cheez-It exposé a frivolous exegesis in subprime caramelization. Others, who already stopped reading at the word exegesis, will never know that as a teenager, a buddy and I broke into a casket warehouse and scared the living exegesis out of ourselves (more on that later*). In any event, this lifelong quest for a darker, toastier more caramelized Cheez-It never ends and I’m incredulous that Kellogg’s has the nerve to pass off these decidedly under-scorched cheese squares as Extra Toasty Cheez-Its. Extra Toasty Cheez-Its? Hardly. They’re still just a whiter shade of orange.
My plea for a darker cracker (seems a contradiction in terms both gastronomically and racially) goes out to all the bakers, cereal chemists and marketers at Kellogg’s who manufacturer this irresistible little quadrilateral known as a Cheez-It. When I use the word “manufacturer” of Cheez-Its it feels so cold, so distant, so mechanical. I prefer to believe my snack crackers are magically baked by benevolent little gnomes, or cherubic Keebler Elves or maybe even some Pips, that is, if Gladys Knight could ever spare them. In other words, if Disney had a Cheezitland I’d belong to the Frequent Eater’s Club.
My neurosis is that, although I welcome Kellogg’s attempt at charring Cheez-Its so they’re cinderlicious, I’m unable to accept, enjoy and celebrate these so-called “Extra Toasty” Cheez-Its by reason of pale color, faulty crunch and deceptive advertising. First of all these addictive little cheez-opiods aren’t nearly “toasty” enough, even though the label specifically claims them to be “Extra Toasty.” Extra toasty compared to what? – an albino Cheez-It.
Second of all, its degree of toastiness is more Caucasian (Scottish really) than anything else. In the esoteric world of baked cheese snack crackers, and despite corporate claims to the contrary, these are not Cheez-Its of color – unless that color was ginger. They are hardly ebony in tone. Put another way, if these crackers were living in South Africa during apartheid, they would not have been discriminated against. They could pass for an all access Cheez-it and would not have to carry an ID.
And third of all, or thirdly or however you list the third thing so it reads well in written form, I’m sad to say my emotional stability is predicated all too much on overcoming this deceptive claim of extra toastiness. But stand with me fellow snack enthusiasts, for we shall overcome. And I highlight this not for myself, but for everyone, everywhere who has felt all too acutely the crestfallen sting of unmet expectation in anticipating a dark, crunchy and cheesy square only to find pale imitators masquerading as Extra Toasty Cheez-Its. It is often said that cheese snobs who cannot abide substandard cheeses are lactose intolerant. Well, I’m a caramelized connoisseur who, in this case, is lack-toasty intolerant.
I don’t want a Cheez-It with a vacation tan. I want a Cheez-It that looks like it drank too many margaritas and forgot to flip itself over. I’m not saying Kellogg’s should go all Cajun on our tiny square friends and offer Blackened Cheez-Its. No, I’m just saying I want some char. I want some singe and I want it X-rated – how about Magic Cheez-It XXX Toasty.
An Unexpected Digression
As mentioned earlier, Kellogg’s now bakes these snack treats (through their Sunshine Biscuits subsidiary). And I store them in the pantry with all my more familiar Kellogg’s cereals. As it happened, late one night, I made a bleary-eyed sojourn to the kitchen for a 2 a.m. snack of cereal and milk. In my somnambulistic stupor, I made the gastronomic mistake of grabbing what I thought was Captain Crunch and inattentively poured myself a hearty bowlful. While engrossed in reading a Babe Ruth biography on my iPhone, I blithely drowned the crunchy “cereal” with cool and refreshing milk, then proceeded to scoop up a hefty spoonful and chomp down on a mouthful of Extra Toasty Cheez-Its swimming in milk before spewing the mismatched mess all over the kitchen table.
Out of the Frying Pan and into the Oven
Why can’t we all agree on one standard for “Toastiness?” After all, they have a single layer system of toastiness in Canada and most of Europe where, by the way, Cheez-Its are 1/4 the cost of Cheez-Its in the United States. Why can’t we have a single layer system here in the US? It’s that damn Snackaceutical Industry that monopolizes and dictates levels of toastiness to us. First they get us hooked on the devilishly tempting morsels with a shelf life longer than a Pet Rock. And, unlike those nasty Menendez brothers, Cheez-Its never go bad. And once we’re pleasantly toasted, the Snackaceutical Industry tries to make us “extra toasty” then jacks up the price. Well Big Snacka is no friend to goodie-addicted snack-a-holics. Marijuana dispensaries have even concocted a high THC Cheez-It blend that makes you look, not exactly sh*t-faced, but more like you’re gazing into a distant camera and constantly saying “Cheez.”
I know many in the US have concerns with how long a Cheez-It should be baked and whether baking them till they’re extra toasty is contributing to “Global Cheezing.” But whether you call it Global Cheezing or Cheez-it Warming, I’m only asking for a properly toasted Cheez-It. Cheez-Its need to come over to the dark side. Not Charles Manson dark, but maybe Harry Belafonte dark. Y’know mon, a splash of sunshine on a cheesy cracker – a deep-roasted veneer to satisfy the ebony hominid in you.
The lack of universal caramelization standards render what should be a dreamy, crystal meth toasted snack cracker experience to devolve into a chewy exercise in milquetoast mastication. This is my truth and I’m a really balanced person (some say a stable genius) with a deep sense of equilibrium, not easily buffeted by something so trifling as levels of toastiness, so you know this issue resonates with a silent majority of snackaholics. To paraphrase JFK’s moonshot rhetoric: I propose we send white crackers to the oven and return them darkly to earth.
I mean if we all get properly toasted, there’s no telling what else a nation of deluded snackers can do: TripleStuf Oreos, 4 Musketeers Bars, Schadenfreude Pancakes, Doneritos (past tense Doritos), self-tooting Bugles and Snickers Bars that actually make snide comments. For the transgendered crowd, instead of Hershey Chocolate, there’d be Hishim Chocolate (…think, think, got it? Good.) The whole field of minutely nichifying snack foods is really opening up now and battle-toasted Cheez-Its are on the frontlines of this culinary war.
*And in testament to the aforementioned promise of fleshing out my youthful breaking and entering into a casket warehouse, here’s the link of doom. Don’t say you weren’t forewarned: The Caskets of Doom