An Ode to Cheez-Its
Look, I'm a snacker. If you go into my pantry at any given time, you'll find at least four different snacks. I usually have a bag of pita chips, whittled down to the crumbs, or a big bag of trail mix picked clean of all the M&M's (yes, I'm that monster). A family-sized bag of Smartfood popcorn often makes an appearance, and maybe a package of Oreos, too. But while those snacks come and go, there's one thing I make sure to always stock up on at the grocery store: a big red box of crispy, flaky, irresistible Cheez-Its.
Cheez-Its are the perfect snack. Small-but-mighty, they pack a punch of cheesy, ridiculously delicious flavor into a little square that's just the right size — easy to pop into your mouth, crunch, and devour in one fell swoop. I love the way a Cheez-It shatters when I take a bite. The salt sprinkled on top drives home a certain savoriness that always brings me back for more. And more. And more. It's not uncommon for me to bring home a box of Cheez-Its, stick them on my snack shelf, and then emerge from a fugue state a few hours later to find that one-third of the box is gone and my fingers are dusted in little orange crumbs. They're something I absentmindedly munch on during meetings, or grab when I realize that — yet again — it's 3 p.m. and, oh crap, I've worked right through lunch, and oh my god I'm hungry and I need a snack while my sad bean burger heats up in the microwave. They tide me over while I cook dinner; later, they're one of my favorite late night bites when I'm watching a movie or come home after going out with my friends. Time and time again, my hand reaches for the box like a reflex, until I scrape the bottom and add it to the grocery list once more.
This devotion is generational; I grew up in a family firmly situated in camp salty snack, where Cheez-Its ruled over a pantry that boasted everything from veggie straws and pretzels to kettle chips. Just a few days ago I was wrapping up work while sitting with my parents in their kitchen. We found ourselves in a reverie, mindlessly passing the red box back and forth across the table until someone had the good sense to put it away.
My mom even made me Cheez-It-crusted chicken fingers when I was younger. That's another beautiful thing about the crackers — there are so many fun ways you can incorporate them into your food. Chicago chef Stephanie Izard included a recipe for Cheez-It S'mores in her cookbook Gather & Graze, and partnered with the brand to create a Cheez-It cake celebrating the cracker's 100th anniversary. New Orleans chef Mason Hereford is on the Cheez-It train, too. In his forthcoming Turkey and the Wolf cookbook, he advocates for using a combination of Cheez-Its and salted roasted peanuts as an ice cream topping. (I'll definitely be trying that soon.)
I should point out that despite the many variations on offer, my heart firmly belongs to Original Cheez-Its. I've had the occasional box of White Cheddar. I honestly can't remember if I've tried the Pepper Jack or the Cheddar Jack, and I'm pretty sure I've never had a whole-grain Cheez-It in this lifetime. As a Buffalo sauce fan, I'm really intrigued by the Buffalo Wing flavor, and I've heard great things about Extra Toasty Cheez-Its as well.
Maybe I'll try them all someday; maybe I won't. But in the meantime, I'll have good-old, reliable regular Cheez-Its, straight from the box. That's more than enough.