Cheez Doodles as Art

Blame the arrival of The McNay’s Impressions in the mail for making me veer off in this direction….  

Photograph of Morrie Yohai by Bill Davis of Newsday reproduced in The New York Times

Where was I the day Morrie Yohai died? 

I have no idea.  I completely missed his death in early August. 

Maybe it wasn’t big news in Texas.  San Antonio is Cheeto-land, staked out by Charles Elmer Doolin in 1948.   

But I’m originally from the East Coast.  We ate Cheez Doodles before the Frito-Lay invasion, and Yohai was the man credited with their invention.  Although I can’t locate a copy of the image online, his obituaries all repeat the claim he proudly kept a photo of Julia Child fondling Cheez Doodles on display.

Wonder what makes them such an artificially bright orange.  DADT.  Know I outgrew grabbing bags of these out of vending machines long ago, but the memory of attempting to keep control of the steering wheel with slimy, orange-encrusted fingers is still strong.  In a 2008 interview, artist Sandy Skoglund said: 

The manipulation of food in terms of shape, color, taste, and so on, has achieved highly unnatural results.

Au gratin bather: Doodle-lover from

An ounce of these baked puffs actually provides 15 percent of your daily calcium needs, but analysis beyond that definitely ruins the pleasure.  DADT.  According to doodle fun facts, that pleasure is significant enough for people ignoring the nutritional warnings to consume the equivalent of 36 Olympic-sized pools filled with Cheez Doodles each year, or the equivalent weight of 1,000 African elephants – 15-million pounds.  If you laid these Cheez Doodles end-to-end you could munch your way all the way from downtown San Antonio to the top of the steps of the Texas State Capitol.

Sandy Skoglund's "The Cocktail Party"

Have no idea how many Cheez Doodles Skoglund used to create “The Cocktail Party,” a cheesy (apologies)  installation recently acquired by the McNay Art Museum.  But I don’t think the writer for the McNay cares for Cheez Doodles much:

“The Cocktail Party” evokes decadence as Sandy Skoglund transforms reality into a garish dream world where mass-produced food products threaten to consume. 

Makes the Doodle people in Skoglund’s installation sound as though they are pod people from a horror film.  But Skoglund herself makes food seem a logical medium: 

…I used the subject of food to create a common language.  After all, everyone eats.

On PBS, Skoglund explained how art became her chosen path: 

…the interesting thing for me is the ultimate sanity of allowing yourself to behave insanely.  When I think back to why I became an artist, it was all about feeling I wasn’t normal….  Even before…I knew what an artist was, I was interested in creating my own worlds.

Before Skoglund gets too far into her lecture at the McNay on Sunday, January 30, I hope she will quickly provide the answers to the low-brow, trivial Cheez-Doodle questions that, left lingering, might distract some small-minded listeners from focusing on her meatier, more meaningful remarks.  Questions such as:

  • Do rodents or roaches ever crawl into museums to nibble away at the Cheez?  
  • You created this piece a number of years back, are these still the original Doodles?
  • When you were taking the photograph, how did the models walking on them keep from crushing Doodles?
  • And, if these are the original Doodles, are they one of the frightening foods that, left undisturbed, will never, ever disintegrate?

Okay.  If I promise not to ask any of these, can I get past the guards?

Update on March 3, 2011: Installing oodles of doodles is no easy task. Watch the time-lapsed video of the staging of “The Cocktail Party” at the McNay.

2 thoughts on “Cheez Doodles as Art”

  1. Good questions. I will have to check out that exhibit. In our house the artwork would be covered in ants.

    My husband used to love cheese puffs until I bought him a huge bottle of them at Sam’s Club as a gift. I think he burned out on cheese puffs after that.



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