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CHEEZ-ITS: A LYRIC ESSAY (WITH RANKINGS)

I don’t drink or smoke and I drive a Prius C, so pretty much the only time I go into a gas station is to buy Cheez-Its. These puny bags will tide me over till I’m in proximity to a box. Then it’s lights out.

Eating Cheez-Its is about binging. Just open the base camp duffel that is your face compound and stuff Cheez-It Snack Crackers in there like Jesse James. This is your life, you stupid idiot. Eat Cheez-Its. Eat all of them, no excuses, no survivors.

I didn’t grow up with a silver spoon—you don’t need a spoon to eat Cheez-Its. My mom is from the South and learned how to cook food. I was well-fed, as that goes. But I spent my entire childhood destroying boxes of those little orange squares of justice and harmony.

I’ve moonpuked White Cheddars onto the corrugated rubber runners of school bus aisles. I’ve booted into Transformers lunch boxes. The thing with Cheez-Its, you can eat too many, call your Uncle Ralph on the big white telephone, and still pick up another box at Kroger on the way home. Even as an adult, your box of Cheez-Its isn’t safe around me.

But the true purpose of this preface is to prove my qualifications for ranking Cheez-Its in descending order from the worst flavor to the best flavor. I am also qualified to provide a little bit of commentary if I can think of something worthwhile to add. Some of the flavors are obvious abominations, and it is there that we begin. If you just want to read about the best ones, skip to the end.


THE LIST THAT DEFINITIVELY RANKS MOST CHEEZ-IT FLAVORS

PROVOLONE. I have maybe a month left to live and this is what you brought me. Interrobang.

MOZZARELLA. No.

WHOLE WHEAT. Stop it, these are the Sugar-Free Haribos of the Cheez-It world. I’m seriously going to die. Some people think they taste the same. Not me, I think they’re wheaty.

REDUCED-FAT. The only thing keeping these out of my trash can is that they are not provolone flavored. Because they have the original flavoring, they’re edible. Why am I eating sand. I will cut you.

WAX BOTTLES AND CIRCUS PEANUTS. Not a Cheez-It flavor but, for scale, this is where I would probably rank them.

BABY SWISS. Swiss cheese isn’t good, so don’t make a Cheez-It out of it.

ZESTY CHEDDAR RANCH GROOVES. Not too bad, but there’s just too much going on. Cheddar, ranch, zestyness, groovitude. Too much. Look, if I want ranch, I’m going to pull the squeezable Hidden Valley Ranch from my messenger bag and squeeze it into my box of Original Cheez-It. Then I’m going to put on an oven mitt (also in my messenger bag) and eat them while I watch whatever’s on in the waiting room of this colonoscopy center.

PEPPER JACK. Milquetoast. Let’s say you’re ordering a sandwich and they ask if you’d like pepper jack. If this sandwich has other spicy attributes, the answer may be yes. If not, you can’t rely on pepper jack to do the heavy lifting.

ITALIAN FOUR CHEESE. This is just too complicated. I enjoyed the first few handfuls and then gave the rest of the box to a homeless person. He shrugged but thanked me.

COLBY. Clearly these suffer from a lack of distribution, since many of those I polled have never heard of them. Unnecessary but not degrading.

EXTRA TOASTY. I hesitate to say anything pejorative because so many people swear by these things. Occasionally you’d come across an extra toasty Cheez-It in a regular box, and it was kind of a treat. I don’t know that we need all of them to taste like this. If I were eating a regular box and came across a random Provolone Cheez-It, I’d punch a baby.

HOT & SPICY. Yum, but not for binge eating. A refined palate will keep these around for baking. HOWEVER, some suit at Sunshine is a live-in-the-basement who has never had Texas Pete. Why would you use Tabasco? That makes zero sense. I don’t care what works from a business perspective. You have a duty to the people who eat Cheez-Its for a living. You use Texas Pete.

DUOZ. I’m going to live after all. Parmesan and Sharp Cheddar would be two different kinds of Cheez-Its, and they would each be flawed in its own way. Duoz is the definition of symbiosis. Both flavors are better when eaten together. With so many nutrients, you’re basically talking about life-sustaining food. Next time it snows in Atlanta, consider hunkering down in a pantry replete with Duoz.

WHITE CHEDDAR GROOVES. Sure, why not.

Best of the best.

WHITE CHEDDAR. Yes, I agree, these are unbelievable. They almost aren’t in the same food group as Original Cheez-It because they taste totally different. If they didn’t leave dandruff all over your fingers and clothes, they’d make a run at the top spot.

ORIGINAL. What do you want me to say, that I like Cheez-Its? I like Original Cheez-Its. Why can’t I just eat these continuously for the rest of my life. Each handful is absolutely perfect, containing an irresistible tang and that certain I-don’t-know-what. My wife steals them from me, but that is the only true flaw in her character.

BIG. These are the same as regular Cheez-Its, right, only bigger? Wrong. They’re bigger.

STAR WARS. These boxes have Chewbacca on the cover and original Cheez-Its inside.

 

Gregg Murray

Gregg Murray

Gregg Murray is an Assistant Professor of English at Georgia State University and the editor for Muse /A Journal. Having received his Ph.D. in English from University of Minnesota, Gregg has published scholarship and reviews in various magazines and journals. He is also a poet and the author of “Ceviche.”
Gregg Murray

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  • Chewbacca totally knows what’s up!

    • Gregg Murray

      #truth

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