Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Chili Cheese Fritos

         Many bizarre contrivances have crawled out from the moist dens of college cafeterias, conceived in an effort to feed the masses of impressionable young students only recently weaned off mom’s home cooking with whatever combination of cheap ingredients were at hand.  One that I recall fairly vividly as both hilarious but reasonably edible was Frito casserole, a mixture of ground beef, refried beens, and cheddar cheese, a sprinkling of lettuce and tomatoes on top, and soggy Fritos.  Yes, you heard that correctly.  I can only imagine how some cafeteria quartermaster decided “Yes, let’s buy Fritos in bulk and make casserole with it!”
A Texas BBQ joint apparently had a
similar idea, offering up Frito Pie.
However, this version seems consider-
ably tastier, as it includes beef brisket
and barbecue sauce.  Still, Fritos and
bean casserole, together again!
            I actually recall it with faint nostalgia; not something I’d go out of my way to make myself, but it wasn’t bad (in a greasy American-style taco sort of way) and it was a unique product of our academic community- oh yeah, that and educated young minds brimming with promise, ready to die ashamed they had not already won a victory for humanity.  Look it where that got us.  
      Anyway, the Chili Cheese Fritos I happened upon in my mother-in-law's cupboard (how much like a creepy old fairy-tale does that sound?) very pleasantly evoked that old cafeteria special- as well as it should remind anyone else who has had chili with cheddar on top.  Overtop a nice cheesy flavor made (according to the package) with romano and cheddar, there are ‘taco’ spices, one of which I can say with certainty is cumin, not something I expect to find on any ordinary chip!  The reddish-brown flavoring is spread with a pleasing consistency and I found it to be well balanced with the natural flavor of the corn chips, unlike another Fritos product which will I shall leave unnamed.
This website featuring 'college cooking'
actually features a recipe for Frito Pie.
     So overall, I was pleasantly surprised that the Chili-Cheese Fritos delivered a unique flavor effectively, were competently executed, and brought me back over five years to the days I was flunking chemistry and getting hit on by my wife.  Admittedly, I probably won’t buy them in quantity because spicy-chili Fritos are not the sort of itch I frequently need to scratch, but it’s there if you want it, and it’s well done for what it is.

Stars: 2½/4
Spiciness Rating: Very Mild

- If you harbor nostalgic sentiments American style tacos and ‘Mexican’ casserole from the school cafeteria, this will hit your spot.
- Taco spice flavoring, with its hints of cumin, is more sophisticated than you would expect and is well coated on the Fritos

- How often do you think to yourself, “Mmmm, I really feel like going out for some school cafeteria food tonight.”


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