Monday, April 15, 2013

A Cheez-It By Any Other Name

cheese crackers

I do not buy Cheez-Its. I am a recycling, Whole Foods-shopping, advanced-degree-bearing mom, and I know that Cheez-Its are bad. The Internet told me so.

I do not buy Cheez-Its, but today I bought organic bite-size cheddar cheese crackers. You have to go to Whole Foods or scour the small organic section of your supermarket to find them. They come in a tasteful yellow box with a graphical typeface reminiscent of older, better days.

You know what else is so special about these fancy organic crackers? They're Cheez-Its. Look like Cheez-Its, smell like Cheez-Its, taste like the cheddar-y, salty goodness of Cheez-Its. They are Cheez-Its in pretty, non-garish packaging that employs use of the word cheese instead of cheez and features the word organic as many times as can be tastefully plastered on the subdued box. They are Cheez-Its for recycling, Whole Foods-shopping, advanced-degree-bearing moms. They cost more, but they make you feel better about yourself.

I wonder why I bother. They are still junk food, and we don't need it.

I tried to tell myself that the overpriced organic faux cheez-its are better because they do not contain all sorts of weird chemicals that I cannot pronounce, which means they must be less bad for us (no matter how many times you say they are organic, cheese crackers are not going to be "good for you"). Then I checked the Cheez-Its ingredient list and found that it reads more or less the same as the fancy crackers one, without all the organic thrown in. I think the only unusual item contained in Cheez-Its is soy lecithin, which is a food additive used as an emulsifier and "generally recognized as safe" by the FDA. (Well, I feel much better with that reassurance.)

There are many things I wish I had thought of, but stamping the word organic on junk food--faux cheez-its, macaroni and cheese, faux oreos, you name it--so that the Healthy Moms will buy it was a stroke of genius. I know what they're doing, and I still buy their products.

Like many parents I know, I wish I didn't serve my kids boxed macaroni and cheese at all. I wish I cooked and they happily devoured well-balanced meals of lean protein, fruits and vegetables every night, but it doesn't usually work that way. Often, the path of least resistance is a box of mac and cheese, so that's what parents do. When we do, we make ourselves feel better by buying the "classy" mac and cheese shaped like bunnies rather than the blue box we grew up with, now filled with SpongeBob shapes.

I drink the overpriced, organic, nearly-as-bad-for-you Kool Aid in the retro box, and I bet that some of you do too. It tastes really good with the faux cheez-its.

For the record, it's almost worth paying extra to have "cheese" rather than "cheez" on the box.

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