Old News: R.I.P. Arch West, Inventor of Doritos

9 Apr

Originally posted September 27, 2011.

The last bag of Doritos I ate before the death of Arch West were the best I’ve ever tasted.  We were up in the mountains, me and my fake girlfriend.  Smoggy and hot in the city but up in the Sierras it was cool, clear day, and we stopped at the Native American Cultural Center to check out some artifacts—longbows and shit made from pelts.  It was a welcome relief from a tough week, and the two stoned Mexican guys running the federally funded shack and posing as Native Americans had a cooler of soda and basket of various chips for sale.  We chose original flavor Doritos and a Coke.  The classic American snack.

Something about the mountain air, the rigors of the wilderness; something about the long grueling week– the experience of eating those fucking Doritos was magnified.   I could taste freshly harvested corn pulled from a heartland field in the dawn.  Chilis hand dried in an adobe marketplace by a Toltec woman with hard, withered fingers.  Salt delicately culled from the nurturing bosom of the sea.  These Doritos tasted like life, seriously.

It brought to mind how about every three months for the past several years I’ve thought, apropos of nothing: who is the guy who invented Doritos?  This man will get no Nobel Prize, but what he gave the world brought more joy than virtually anybody.  In retrospect, I might have known that the universe was giving me a chance to truly taste the man’s masterpiece before he passed to the great beyond.

Arch West, the inventor of Doritos, died last Tuesday at the age of 97.   West was a marketing exec for Frito Corp. (soon to become Frito–Lay after a merger), and on a trip to California, sampled some tortilla chips for the first time from a snack stand by the beach.  This was in the sixties.  Mind you, tortilla chips themselves hadn’t been invented until 1944, so, the idea hadn’t really spread around, and West, according to lore, instantly knew he was onto something.  He took his idea of a spicy version of the crisp fried corn chips to the higher ups at Frito Corp, and they laughed at him. They laughed.

So West invested some of his own money into developing the chip, presumably bested further hurdles in an inspiring manner, and brought Doritos to the world.  Fucking Doritos.  He was a marketing guy, too—it wasn’t even his job to sit around a test kitchen frying big batches of corn batter ad infinitum until some catchy new snack was created by accident.  He was “outside the box,” going above and beyond the call of duty; when he found something genius, he believed in himself and fucking saw it through.

And we got Doritos. Doritos!  Remember, children of the eighties—for our whole lives there was one Dorito, now known as Zesty Nacho Cheese or “Nacho Cheesier” or some whored-up shit but back then known simply as “Doritos.” And then in like 1985 Cool Ranch came out and it was fucking Martin Luther nailing his proclamations to the church door.  A shattering of worlds.  Because as delicious as the Ur-Doritos had been, these Cool Ranch Doritos were, to a child’s palette, even more delicious. Now the Doritos family has splintered into a thousand different flavors; Doritos is the mockingbird of fried corn snacks, mimicking the flavors of every fatty food, cross-branding with Pizza Hut, dolled up as burgers, burritos, guacamole, hot sauce.  Most of them aren’t worth shit.  Arch West tasted every flavor of Doritos before he died—weeks before his death, in decrepitude at ninety seven years of age, he was given a Rip Roarin’ Cheezeburger flavor or something to try and he spat them out.  I like to think that he shed a tear at how his brainchild had been profaned.  I like to think he impaled the kneeling Frito-Lay messenger with a spear, sent his head back to corporate as a warning.

But the bigger point here is– Arch West invented fucking Doritos, and this is a greater contribution to our lives than James Joyce.  Bigger than like, Luciano Pavarotti– if Pavarotti hadn’t sung those songs some other fat guy would’ve.  Arch West made a  bigger contribution to the life of the world than all but maybe five U.S. presidents.  Washington, Lincoln, Jefferson– and him, more for his accomplishments outside of office than in– Franklin Roosevelt, and maybe Truman ‘cuz he dropped the bomb.  That’s it.  Fucking Warren G. Harding didn’t do shit compared to the invention of Doritos.  Most presidents are simply place holders, kept in check by congress by design and vainly making noise about making big changes when in fact their job is to just check the country’s oil once in a while and then hand on the keys to the next caretaker.  John F. Kennedy would have done better to stop at a snack stand on his many travels to the beach and identify a fried bread product that had not yet caught on with most of the country, add some salt, color, and distinctive spice, and keep the courage of his convictions against his chip overlords until his creation had spread joy and delight to BILLIONS of people.  Instead he partially instigated, then subdued, the Cuban Missile Crisis.  A wash.

Anyway.  Arch West.  Goodnight, crunchy prince.

3 Responses to “Old News: R.I.P. Arch West, Inventor of Doritos”

  1. Grrr April 9, 2012 at 12:49 pm #

    The other night, I was sitting watching TV while my wife was yapping about stuff and I was nodding occasionally to make her think I was listening. The kids were in bed and I was waiting for her to come to a stopping place so I could take her back to the bedroom and fool around. But she just never stopped. Her ability to ramble about nothing is legendary. So after a while, I decided that I wasn’t going to get any action that night because she wouldn’t shut up, so I went to the kitchen and got a bag of Doritos and returned to where the TV was. If I was going to have to sit there and half-ass listen and get no girlie action out of it, I wasn’t going to do it hungry. She was still talking when I got back. So I sat there and started eating the Doritos. I fully realized that the act of eating the Doritos and the resulting breath that I was going to get ensured that my wife wasn’t going to give me any action that night. And admission of defeat and acknowledgement that the evening would end with her getting her fill of talking and going to bed leaving me to watch reruns of Pawn Stars in solitude. Because lets face it, no matter how hot you are, expecting someone to not be grossed out by your Doritos breath during intimate moments is unreasonable…especially if you’ve been married for more than a few years.

    But then something magical happened. By some random chance, I had apparently faked listening quite well. There is really no way to know how I did it and trying to repeat this feat will inherently fail because…well, that’s just the way things are and trying to figure these things out is more trouble than its worth. And if you did figure it out, she’d be on to that and find a way to negate the fact that you’d figured it out and you’d be back to square one. Women just know this – sorta like how they know when you have or have not cleaned out the lint filter when you put a load of clothes in the dryer regardless of where they are. Even if you’re home alone and she is at work and you don’t clean out the lint filter this one time, she will know…somehow… and she will call you up to ask you why you didn’t clean out the lint filter and why that will cause the dryer to catch on fire and burn the house down.

    They just know. You know what I’m talking about.

    So the fact that I wasn’t trying and I’m guessing I did something subconsciously vagina-tinglingly manly while eating those Doritos…well, she came over and sat down beside me and asked if she could have some Doritos too.

    To this day, I don’t know whether all that talking made her hungry or if she got turned on by me in some way and decided she wanted some action. But after she had eaten enough Doritos to level the stank breath playing field, she gave me the look that says take me now. So I took her by the and and made vigorous love to her that night…on top of the dryer…while it was running…and neither of us was worried about whether the lint filter was full or not.

    I made that last part about the dryer up. But it was a great night in bed anyway. The point is that I’ve got a good woman even though she talks too much. And my wife and I both really love Doritos.

  2. Anonymous February 10, 2014 at 10:52 pm #

    Better comment than any blog post i could have written

  3. Anonymous December 22, 2020 at 5:39 pm #

    Absolutely hilarious. A truly American tale

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