Thursday, February 28, 2013

Yes, That IS a String of Cheetos Hanging From the Eaves. It's SCIENCE.

Let it not be said that the residents of our household do not have Inquiring Minds. Science: It's what's for breakfast. And for sleepover snackses.

For the past three weeks we've had a rain-chain of Cheetos hanging from the front eave of the house. It was draped there by a gaggle of girls whom the Resident Teen had invited over for a sleepover (though to be precise it was more of a movie-over, or a feast-over, or something, with  lots of texting mixed in). 

It came to my attention when I wandered into the living room, which was momentarily the only quiet place in the house, and saw this weird apparition bobbing outside the window, backlit by the streetlights. 

Amazing, how quickly the brain works: "What is THAT? Oh, of course. It's Cheetos tied to a string. Suspended from the eave."

A request was made not to disturb the Cheeto-chain because the science squad wanted to see how long it would take for birds to eat the snacks. Sure, fine, whatever. 

(Never mind that I can cause my offspring terrible embarrassment merely by being seen at school, or by breathing too loudly, or by blinking too rapidly. Apparently decorating one's house with snack foods is perfectly acceptable.)

I assumed the crows would make off with the cheese puffs in no time. I've seen them wolfing down Cheetos in parks and playgrounds, after all, and here they were getting them served up virtually on a silver platter. Barring that, the little orange squiggles would surely grow moldy and disintegrate. (Talk about shabby-chic decor for your home!)

Well, that was the hypothesis. Much to our surprise, the crows did not gobble up the experiment. Nor did the snacks grow moldy. They lost volume as they dried out (the Resident Teen noted that they'd gotten pretty tough), and didn't regain any size even when they grew spongy with rain. 

Get thee behind me, Doodles!
Otherwise, I think they may have persisted in the environment for a very, very long time (except that the teenage scientist finally and unceremoniously yanked the Cheeto-chain off the house and threw it away). The secret to eternal life probably lies in the preservatives used to ensure a long shelf life for cheese puffs. 

OK, I know full well that snack foods like this are the opposite of kale chips. I have come a long way from craving the Cheez Doodles I loved so much as a kid. 

And I know that one should be suspicious of foods that come in bags that warn you to keep them out of the light. (I can't recall what brand of cheesy snacks required darkness--or should I say "cheezy snax," as weird spelling seems to be required when describing cheese-flavored cornmeal puffs).

But don't let a bag of them anywhere near me because I can still hear their siren song....

Curious to find out more about the latest in cheese-puff science, I went a-Googlin', and was newly amazed by the creative capacity of my fellow human beings (and in some cases astonished by just how much time can be wasted, and--to go for a trifecta of adjectives beginning with A--appalled by  just how bad bad taste can be, and we're not talking about the taste of the cheese puffs).

This is a cheetah, not a Cheeto. Couresty Wikipedia.
There is a blog that covers an entire summer's worth of Cheeto science experimentation. You can find out just what's in a Cheeto here. There are people who make artworks out of Cheetos: one woman made an entire Cheeto room complete with furniture and people, and another artist uses that neon orange dust that collects at the bottom of a Cheetos bag to make portraits, such as a cheesy one of Elvis on black velvet. There are teachers who have little children eat Cheetos in order to teach them about pollination. (I kid you not. I suppose the next unit in their science classes is Nutrition.)

There are also lots of chickens, corn snakes, orange-tabby cats, hamsters, and other animals named Cheeto. (I have even personally met one of these animals, and  he is said to be a good rat-catcher.) 

Other fun cheese-puff facts for those seeking to snack on junk-food trivia: 

Cheese puffs were apparently discovered by accident in the 1930s as a worker making flaked corn for cattle feed noticed that damp cornmeal heated by a flaking machine's motor caused the cornmeal to be extruded in long threads. Add flavoring to extruded, damp, warm cattle feed, and voila! A snack sensation is born!

Cheetos were the first American snack food to be produced and distributed in China (in 1994). According to Wikipedia, taste tests were performed first, with "ranch dressing, North Sea crab, smoked octopus and caramel being passed up for two flavors: Savory American Cream and Zesty Japanese Steak."

Django watched the Cheeto-chain for HOURS.
Wise snack-food company makes cheese puffs that look like crocodiles.

There are apparently people who will pay $35.18 to purchase Cheetos on ebay that purport to resemble Michael Jackson  moonwalking.

Wotsits are the UK's version of cheese puffs, and you can get them in prawn-cocktail flavor. They also once made a product called "Mealtime Potato Shapes," which shows that they really desperately needed a marketing department.

Right, that's quite enough of that. Onward. What science projects do you have hanging around your house, literally or figuratively (not counting the ones we all have lurking in the back of the refrigerator in mysterious food-storage containers)?