Before I got a chance to try the Doritos Loaded, my working lede for this article was "Three fat white guys walk into a 7-Eleven. They never walk out."
I wish that lede were true.
I wish it were applicable.
I wish I were dead.
When I first heard about the Doritos Loaded (Sidebar: is that what this product is really called? I've been calling them "3D Doritos" and "Stuffed Doritos" all week, because "Doritos Loaded" is only a marginally better moniker than descriptive statement about the product), my immediate reaction, like most of you, was incredulity.
"What?" I asked aloud in a crowded 7-Eleven in Culver City several weeks ago. After reading enough posted promotional material to glean that this was not, in fact, some morbid practical joke or satire on the state American culinary trends, I'm sure I jumped to the same place as any rational reader out there – the same gut-punch reaction that all human beings have when faced with something so horrific it makes them question their philosophical worldview and jump straight from Kant to Nietschze.
Well, I am reminded of the words of Primo Levi, the Italian scholar who charted the terrors of World War II with painful clarity:
"There is no why here."
So anyway, three fat white guys walk into a 7-Eleven. Right off the bat, we're assaulted with advertisements for the Doritos Loaded, as if this is a thing that sane human beings can actually be conned into ordering. A poster assures us that the Doritos Loaded go great with something called "Mountain Dew Solar Flare," which only further convinces me that we are about to make a terrible mistake.
There's a moment of personal triumph when I see that sad little heating trays are barren, devoid of all save a few dried husks of pepperoni pizza and a buffalo chicken taquito, but the attendant behind the counter says it'd be no problem to prepare some Doritos Loaded.
I pay for two orders – the self-loathing commences.
While the worker (who bore no name tag, because he felt like killing my narrative style) used a pair of comically oversized metal tongs to place the frozen, ill-shaped lumps of breaded "cheese" onto a heating tray below the thing they cook the hot dogs in, my two pals – Sebastian, from Omaha, and Adrian, from Norwalk (we like to keep a diverse sample size for these endeavors) – and I filled Big Gulps with the recommended pairing Mountain Dew Solar Flare, and toasted to all our years of camaraderie. Divvying up our meager assets, we assigned them to friends in the event of our seemingly inevitable demise – how naïve we were, then; there are fates far worse than death.
We took the two small boxes (I found the enticing colorful graphics to be condescending; I'd already purchased the fucking things, after all) outside to the parking lot, to commit ourselves to this shameful bacchanal by streetlight. I opened the first box.
At first glance, the Doritos Loaded appear as innocuous as Banquet brand chicken nuggets – truly, something unpleasant, but not sinister. Some might even argue wholesome, in a nostalgic sort of way. Of course, the smell wafting from the box was exactly as you might imagine – like fried Doritos. It was a corn-heavy smell, and I think it's still lingering on my clothes from last night.
"Jesus Christ," I muttered, picking one out of the box. "They're cold in the middle."
Indeed they were. And squishy. My thumb left a grotesque indentation in the center of the little orange pyramid, grease and flecks of breading sticking to my skin.
"Well, gentleman," I began, taking one last sip of Mountain Dew Solar Flare. "It's been a pleasure."
Sebastian nodded grimly, and Adrian may have been murmuring a silent prayer, as we pressed together the soggy cheese triangles in a macabre imitation of our earlier toast, and took the first bite.
I wish I could tell you that they're not that bad.
Even as the gooey, not-quite-liquid-but-definitely-not-solid "cheese" began to ooze over my tongue, my mind insisted that the Doritos Loaded could not honestly be THAT bad. It's just cheese. Fried, breaded cheese.
But that's the thing, dear reader – they are THAT bad.
The breading is loosely constructed, crumbly, and essentially the outside of a cheap chicken nugget mixed with the unpleasant corny aftertaste of your least favorite Dorito. It doesn't matter which specific flavor of Dorito is your least favorite – you will be reminded of it; these bad boys are an equal opportunity offender. As for the innards, I was prepared for gobs of dribbly, weirdly-warm nacho cheese, but the pasty, thick "cheddar" (I use the descriptor loosely here, to attempt to convey the flavor) within the Doritos Loaded is somehow WORSE than the nacho cheese you can squeeze out of the little metal dispenser next to the hot dogs. It sticks to your teeth and clogs up your mouth like a tepid, lactose-based Elmer's glue.
And I can assure you, as awful as the first Doritos Loaded was, the second (remember, I do this for YOU, dear reader) was, by leaps and bounds, much, much worse. I literally gagged, finishing half of my Mountain Dew.
"These," declared Sebastian, "Are not tops," which is apparently the most grievous criticism Midwesterners can employ. Conversely, Adrian unconsciously picked up a third Doritos Loaded and began to gnaw on it thoughtfully.
"I guess I keep expecting the taste to somehow get worse, but then it doesn't, so I'm pleasantly surprised," he remarked, cleansing his palate with copious slurps of Solar Flare.
At this point, in the 7-Eleven parking lot, I was making weird little gagging noises and suckling at my Big Gulp like a newborn piglet. I can't attest to the true quality of Mountain Dew Solar Flare, but at that moment, rushing through my mouth like a cool, cleansing, baptismal river of citrusy flavor, it was ambrosia.
And then, since there was one Doritos Loaded left, and exactly zero shreds of my dignity left, I shoved the whole thing in my mouth and ate it all at once.
At the time of this writing, I am, in spite of all odds, medically-speaking, alive.
But inside? In my heart of hearts?
I am dead, dear reader. The 7-Eleven Doritos Loaded killed me.