Friday, January 13, 2012

The Siren Call: $2 Only

Over the years, I've developed a list of foods I really can't have in the house if I want to be at all healthy/avoid looking like a manatee. Of course, they're all cheap and easily accessible. Velveeta, for example, was banished many years ago--I could devour a whole brick in less than a week. Doritos, which at one point my iron stomach could take by the family-sized bagful. Sugar soda (I should probably bag diet, too, but I'm an addict). Donuts or packaged pastry of any kind. The cheaper and more mass-produced it is, the more it calls to my fat cells, begging me to buy it, rush home, eat it, hide the evidence, and ultimately confess to my husband what a pig I am. I do not do this with anything expensive because it would feel like a waste of money.

Which is where these tortilla chips come in.

There was a time when plain tortilla chips were safe, especially if we ran out of salsa. We don't usually keep nacho-friendly cheese in the house; our standards are usually Swiss for sandwiches, Mozzarella for flatbread pizza, and Parmesan for pretty much everything else. None of these are very good on a tortilla chip. Believe me. I've tried. But on top of plain chips requiring something extra to make them appeal, the good ones were mostly over three dollars a bag and the cheap ones tasted like cardboard. Maybe these taste like cardboard, too, to some people. But to me, they are much tastier than the other discount brands I've tried, and suddenly, they seem to be everywhere. Many places that pride themselves on low prices even trump the "$2 only" guarantee and sell them for a buck fifty. This makes them hard to resist.

Because they're cheap, I'm more willing to spring for cheese to go with them. And I've become much more resourceful in the kitchen in the past few years, and thus able to turn pantry-and-fridge items into suitable sauces. Not gourmet by any means: This is bona fide junk food. The kind foodies are generally loathe to admit they enjoy, or that they really lose a taste for in their frenzy for fish eggs and raw cheeses. It appeals to a desire for salt and fat and leaves you feeling happily bloated.

Sadly, I think these cheap chips have to make the no-fly list. Even if I buy them for a specific purpose, I can't resist the leftovers between meals. They call to me from the cupboard, beg me to dunk them in chili and sour cream, and won't quit until I've devoured them all. Maybe one day I'll be strong enough to resist their wiles, but for now, I must banish them. They'll go nicely with the banished Velveeta.

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