Doritos inventor dies at age 97, so let the chips fall


A chip off the ol' block: America may have invented tortilla chips, but Mexico improved them. (Tim Carman/The Washington Post)

While linked with Mexican food — and probably a natural evolution of the Mexican tostada — the tortilla chip apparently grew out of a misbehaving tortilla machine in Los Angeles that was spitting out irregular rounds. Frito-Lay just found a way to turn this West Coast chip craze into a nationwide obsession.

And now the creator of Doritos — that crunchy triangle of toasted whole corn, oil and salt — is dead. I think we all owe Arch West, a former marketing executive with Frito-Lay, a huge debt of gratitude. Without his enterprising spirit, we all might still be scooping up bean dip with Fritos.


Patricia Jinich's Raw Tomatillo and Chipotle Salsa. (Susan Biddle/The Washington Post)

Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but imagine life without tortilla chips and salsa available at your fingertips at the local supermarket? Sure, you can argue that Doritos turns out an inferior product — an argument all too easy to make once you’ve tasted the hearty, masa-based chips found throughout Mexico (see the photo above) — but unlike so many other mass-produced snacks (I’m looking at you, “Greek-style yogurts”), Doritos actually taste good.

Granted, Doritos has toiled to asborb the worst parts of the American diet into its chips, starting with “Nacho Cheese” in the 1970s and progressing to “COOL RANCH,” “BLAZIN’ BUFFALO & RANCH” and “LATE NIGHT ALL NIGHTER CHEESEBURGER” flavored chips. (And SCREAMING every step of the way, I should add.) Doritos has even wormed its way into sports and popular culture, with bizarro, 3-D tie-ins to Madden 12 video games.

Despite these advances in chip technology — or perhaps because of them — I tend to hide in the comfort of the original Doritos corn tortilla chips. I’ve been known to knock them back, almost unconsciously, as if popping chocolates from the office candy dish.

All it takes is a good salsa to turn me into a Doritos junkie. So in tribute to Arch West, we at All We Can Eat serve up three homemade salsas to help you gobble down a bag or two of Doritos.

Try one of these salsas to facilitate your Doritos addiction:

* Cooked Salsa Verde, by Patricia Jinich

* Blackened Salsa

* And another Jinich recipe: Raw Tomatillo and Chipotle Salsa Verde

Tim Carman serves as the full-time writer for the Post's Food section and as the $20 Diner for the Weekend section, a double duty that requires he ingest more calories than a draft horse.

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