Saturday, July 5, 2014

Snacks are weird.

It's true---people will try to explain away differences in cultures for many things, including such minor considerations as politics, religion, and class distinctions, but when it comes to snack food, we're appalled at what the other guy eats. I think we're even willing to cut entrees some slack, since you have to eat something and maybe locusts were all there was (for example). But you eat snacks when you're not starving. You eat that stuff on purpose. Therein lies the horror.

When Americans go someplace truly foreign, they will either reel with horror from what the people snack on or will pretend that they've not only come to like it, they're something of an expert. Yeah, even the locals defer to my taste in fried tortoise testicles. I've got a rep, I guess.

Even within our own nation, other foods surprise me. I've never warmed to grits, or even a single grit. And I'd only heard whispers of things like this: 

Although the product has been around for fifty years, and is known internationally, you could not find these up north until recently, or at least I couldn't. Never ate a thing "in a biskit." Chicken-flavored snacks are like something you'd use to train the dachshund. But no, these are crackers for human consumption, flavored with dehydrated chicken, and things like this are popular in various places. I bought them and ate them... and I liked them myself. They tasted like chicken broth. What could be wrong with that? Crumbled crackers are used to top all sorts of casseroles; I'll bet these are great for that.

The Wikipedia page says that in Australia, Nabisco makes a Vegemite-in-a-Biskit cracker. That's taking things too far.

Another foreign snack that has a chicken variety is Twisties, made by Smith's Snackfood (owned by Pepsi). In Italy they are sold under the name Fonzies.


I wondered if they were actually named for the internationally popular character Arthur Fonzarelli, the Fonz, portrayed memorably by Henry Winkler. Longwhitekid, who runs an amazing blog on New Zealand stuff (and a lot on food), believes so:

Interestingly, Twisties are produced in Italy under the brand name “Fonzies”. In the mid 1970s, General Foods and Bluebird, on the back of the success of the T.V. series “Happy Days” and the resulting 1950′s retro/ Greaser style revival that resulted – did a licensing deal with Paramount Pictures and marketed a cheesy snack product named “Fonzies”, for actor Henry Winkler’s character “The Fonz”, which was the epitome of cool to boys at that time and much impersonated.

My question, though, is this: Since Henry Winkler is Jewish (which came as a crushing blow to the Italian kids in my school -- not that the Fonz was Jewish but that he was not Italian), are Fonzies kosher? Hmm....

Here's something to ponder: Winker is 68 now; when he started playing the Fonz he was 28. The show Happy Days was originally set in the mid-50's (a second-season episode centered around Eisenhower's reelection campaign). Assuming Fonzie was the same age as the actor playing him, the Fonz would now be about 85. Which means Winkler could kick Fonzarelli's butt. 

Here's another: The great Al Molinaro played the character Al Delvecchio on Happy Days, but he was well known before that for playing Murray Greshler, a Jewish cop on The Odd Couple TV show. So while the Jewish Mr. Winker was playing the Italian Mr. Fonzerelli, the proprietor of the diner had once been an Italian actor playing a Jewish cop. Somehow I don't think that would have comforted the Italian kids in my school, though.

And a third: I thought Nabisco had been taken over by some bizarre Spanish firm, as all the product boxes say "Mondelēz" on them. But no: They decided to change the parent name from Kraft Foods, and while the company is still American, they chose a stupid name in a stupid way: "The Mondelēz name, adopted in 2012, came from the input of Kraft Foods employees at the time, Monde being French for world and delez an alternative to delicious." Mrs. Key thinks this a team-builder and a boost for employee morale. I call it maize. Which is in keeping with many of the fine corn-based Mondelēz products. 

No comments: