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Hot Cheetos, Banned Legumes, Ham Competitions, and More Long Reads

Worthy weekend reading material

Sean Gallup/Getty Images

This week food writers explore a diverse array of topics, from how Hot Cheetos became "the crystal meth of recess" to instant noodles in Japan and Pakistani "Zinger" burgers. In evolving food discussions, what makes a French bistro, and why shouldn't legumes be consumed on Passover? Residents in two Smithfields go hog-wild over ham in a yearly competition. Another author argues that Mario Batali has a lot to contribute on the history of food and pop culture. Here, now, are seven must-read longform stories to dig into this weekend.

Why Hot Cheetos Embody the American Dream

First We Feast

Then he thought of elote, the Mexican street snack of corn covered in butter, cheese, and chile sauce. He pitched the idea of tossing a spice powder on those orphan Cheetos to the big bosses at the plant, who loved it. In 1992, Hot Cheetos were released upon the world, and now they're Frito-Lay's top-selling snack food. Montañez is a VP at the company. America!

Meet the Association Upholding the Integrity of Instant Noodles

Atlas Obscura

By containing the noodles and seasoning in their own waterproof container, Ando was more easily able to get instant noodles to appeal to international markets. Now, the noodles didn't even really need to be cooked, making the product much more universal. With Cup Noodles, Ando's dream of a global instant noodle empire quickly became a reality.

The KFC Chicken Sandwich that Ate Pakistan

Roads and Kingdoms

It is hard to imagine a neighborhood that does not have a shop selling a Zinger. Zingers are sold at a snack bar in Keamari, next to the Karachi harbor, on carts near the Sakhi Hasan graveyard in the north of Karachi, at old-school fast food places in the city's once-leafy suburb-like neighborhoods. Every menu and poster features the same image taken off the KFC website: a perfect bun, a thick patty, a slice of lettuce.

Are Parisian Bistros Finished or Just Getting Started?


"Yves helped that generation take the power," Demorand says. "They saw that if he could do it, they could do it. When Yves finally understood he would never get a star, even though his food was worth it, guys were like, 'Fuck you, Michelin. The music is loud, the place is crowded, we're alive, and this is what we do now.'"

The Long, Squabble-Filled, Semi-Arbitrary History of Banning Legumes on Passover

The New Yorker

While the social networks of many Reform and Conservative Jews have been aglimmer this week with enthusiastic legume-themed posts — mostly gloating about new Passover recipes — €”the mood on my Orthodox social networks has darkened. "Great news," one sarcastic commenter wrote. "So now the rank and file can enjoy rice with their shrimp and cheeseburgers."

Ham to Ham Combat

Southern Foodways Alliance

And the night before the contest, a group gathered at Becky's Log Cabin steakhouse — where Johnston County's contestants reportedly plied the judges with bourbon — €”and exchanged verbal blows. For the North, John Smith of The Smithfield(VA) Times said, "When I think of North Carolina hams, I think of salt pork that hasn't been smoked and Tar Heel politicians that may or may not have been cured."

How Food Became Pop Culture

Lucky Peach

That said, what food television has created for us is a continuously growing, hungry group of people: hungry for the information, hungry for the food, hungry for the experience. On every level they want to engage us. So we've never had it this good.