I am critical of a lot of things. Give me a topic and I can probably find something that needs improving. With one exception.
Cheez-Its are baked cheese crackers packaged in a sturdy red box. Each orange square has ridged edges and a tiny hole in the center, with the middle being just a teensy amount thicker than the tapered edges. This is important because it allows Cheez-Its to be arranged in such a way that when you put a stack in your mouth and chomp, the sensation is so satisfying that it just might bring a tear to your eye. Each mountain collapses elegantly, provocatively—almost in soft slow motion, akin to old footage of the atom bomb. I can only assume the center hole does something regarding air flow to assist in this marvelous feat of food engineering. All these details might go unnoticed by a less observant snacker, so innocuous and imprinted onto our psyches are they—in fact, I consider the most brilliant feat of this particular cracker to be tricking us into thinking we created each perfect stack ourselves.
The actual taste of Cheez-Its is a layered enigma. A surface mostly smooth on the tongue, a flavor bordering on bland, save for a few grains of salt—it’s almost a warm-up. This crisp, even exterior effectively seals in most of the potent cheese flavor, so that upon first taste the crackers are simply salty with a slight, pleasant burnt cheese quality. Then, as your greedy mouth hole collapses the outside of each square in what can technically be called “chewing,” when in reality a far more embarassing term should be employed, the (unexpectedly) slightly puffed, hollow center gives way to a blast of secret cheese air that regales your taste buds with such delightful force you simply must close your eyes to savor the moment. Because—and this is the covert magic of Cheez-Its—this whoosh of flavor is so fleeting, so blink-and-you’ll-miss-it, that your hands will itch to build another tawny stack almost immediately.
Yes, Cheez-Its are perfect.
And only the original flavor will do.