The Doritos origin story: Repurposed garbage from Disneyland
Doritos (love the “#bold” hashtag applied non-ironically to people who regularly eat Doritos) are a ridiculous product just taken at face value. But when you learn that they were born in a Disneyland dumpster, they become an absurdist allegory of the American consumer condition.
Shortly after Disneyland opened in 1955, the founder of Frito-Lay got permission from Walt Disney to open a restaurant in Frontierland with a Mexican-ish theme. “Casa de Fritos” was, unsurprisingly, all about the Fritos. Customers got free Fritos, and Fritos were incorporated into many of the dishes. Fritos were dispensed by an animatronic vending machine that featured the terrifying “Frito Kid” asking his assistant “Klondike” to bring the bag up from a mineshaft. I guess the conceit is that Fritos were mined by Forty-Niners?
Casa de Fritos contracted their tortilla production to a company called Alex Foods. One of the salesmen from Alex Foods, making a delivery to Casa de Fritos, noticed stale tortillas in the garbage and gave the cook a little tip: fry them and sell them as chips instead of throwing them away. Casa de Fritos began making these fried, seasoned chips to enormous success, but didn’t report this new menu item to the Frito-Lay company.
A year later, the new VP of Frito-Lay, Archibald Clark West, dropped by the restaurant without warning and saw hundreds of jaws dancing to the sweet crunchy symphony of profit potential. “This shit is gold!” he (probably never) said, christened them “Doritos,” and made a deal with Alex Foods to produce them as a snack. When Doritos started to get big, production of the chips was moved to a bigger factory in Tulsa, effectively edging Alex Foods off the billion-dollar train. Thankfully, the Morales family, who own Alex Foods, weren’t ruined by the loss.
Equally uplifting is West’s sincere enthusiasm for the Dorito. Throughout his life, he remained committed to the snack, even serving as a taste tester after he retired from the vice presidency. His favorite was plain corn, although he conceded a liking for Cool Ranch as well. Shortly before he died, he tasted a Cheeseburger flavored Dorito and spat it out. At his funeral, his daughter threw Doritos into the grave after him, as per his request.
So next time you pick up a bag of Cool Buffalo Maelstrom or Fucking Natural Cheese Disaster Doritos, recall that they were once literally the garbage of Disneyland, and reflect on the poetry of modern life.