There was an article in the Guardian week before last, highlighting to readers the dangers of eating a popular spicy snack. It was labelled dangerous by a doctor in the United States because a teenager had undergone surgery to remove her gall bladder, purely due to her obsession with the crispy treat. And the treat in question is none other than the humble Cheeto — Flamin’ Hot Cheetos to be exact.
Apparently, after consuming four packets of the food stuff every week the teenager eventually developed stomach pains and was taken to the doctor, who quickly laid the blame on her eating habits — and in particular Cheeto. And she was prepped for surgery to remove her gall bladder.
When I read the headline I nearly choked on my tea. Many a time I have dreamt of holding a bag of the wondrous snack since moving from Dubai almost two years ago. When such reveries take hold, I think of the gilded glow-sticks of gluttonous glory; delicious, tangy, crispy and hot and my mind wanders to times of utter contentment in my apartment in Dubai. Cheetos are not available in the whole of Ireland or the UK and I thank my lucky stars that they aren’t. If I spotted them on the shelf of any supermarket from here to eternity I’d buy out the entire stock and hide myself away until the sound of paramedics breaking down my door and the sensation of being rolled out or hoisted out of the window would rouse me from my dreamlike state while my chubby, greasy palms trying to hang on to the last orange bag of delight.
Of my time living in Dubai, the Cheeto was a small yet vital indulgence in the stress-filled life of a working woman, attempting to navigate the mean streets of the whizzing, whirling, wondrous city. For me, they represented comfort food at their best: Spicy, sweet and crunchy, with the added bonus of orange fingers of moist crumbles to suck afterwards. They were best eaten with a glass of red in front of the TV, curtains closed and door locked. I would purchase the said vice from the guys who worked at the local corner shop. I suspected they referred to me as ‘Cheeto girl’ for my fondness of the snack, whose mascot is the unmistakable cheeky Cheetah.
And it wouldn’t be a simple little bag I’d pull from the shelf, I’d always go for the massive family pack of the Flamin’ stuff.
Therefore, you can imagine my horror at the bad press my favourite snack is receiving now. To disparage the good name of Flamin’ Cheetos by terrifying people with the spectre of gall bladder surgery is, to me, sacrilege. They are nothing but dear friends of mine, til I scoff the lot, of course. But, as recommended by the makers of the snack, I guess everything must be enjoyed in moderation. Some schools in the US have even banned them to protect their students’ guts and the classroom furniture from flaky, orange crumbs. The girl missing a gall bladder has learnt a lesson the hard way. But, I was never that bad with my Cheeto obsession. When I did visit the corner shop in Dubai, I was usually coming home from the gym after a sweaty session of spinning. Unsuspecting shoppers were treated to the glorious sight of a woman fully clad in gym clothes and trainers, armed with a bottle, picking up chocolate and crisps and beaming with excitement about entering into a world of pure joy.
As for any lessons for those who also harbour a secret addiction; you are not alone. We’re only human and as such are at the mercy of our basest of instincts. But just be careful; as humans we are also blessed with insight and awareness of the damage we may be doing to our bodies.
So the bottom line is: Have fun, but within reason. I’ll stick with the lame imitations of Flamin’ Cheetos till the day I spot them on the supermarket shelf. Paramedics on standby.
Christina Curran is a freelance journalist based in Northern Ireland.