Musings upon the death of the Cheez Doodles creator

Someone needs to erect a big, puffy, orange statue in Central Park in honor of Morrie Yohai.

As the New York Daily News put it Monday morning: “Morrie Yohai, who died of cancer at age 90 last week, was a mystic, a World War II Marine pilot and a philanthropist. But he’ll probably be remembered most as the creator of the Cheez Doodle.”

I’m all for eating right and healthy and organic and local, but sometimes I think, well, I’ll just go to hell — I love my Cheetos, Cheez-Its, creamsicles (at my going-away party upon leaving my last job, my co-workers laid out a spread comprised solely of orange-colored food), and yes, Cheez Doodles. Hypocrite? Guilty as charged. Check out this editorial, also from the Daily News:

“Cheez Doodles, those tasty, neon-orange puffs, are most certainly not organic. Nor are they made in cast-iron kettles, according to artisanal methods. Nor are they sold at greenmarkets by upstate farmers. Nor do they contain cancer-fighting antioxidants.

“But they brought cheese to millions of fingers – and joy to plenty of mouths, if not waistlines – thanks to Morrie Yohai, born in Harlem in 1920 and reared in the Bronx, the son of Jewish immigrants from Turkey.”

I’m thankful I’m as healthy as I am, with the steady diet of junk food I was raised on, and still indulge in (usually at work, when I’m on deadline, or late at night, when I’m dealing with writer’s block, er, procrastination). I’m at about the correct weight for my height. Perhaps it’s my rapid metabolism, no doubt spurred by four to five cups of coffee a day.

As my sister commented on my Facebook profile, yeah, right, so it was Cheez Doodles that were Morrie’s secret to living until 90? Maybe. Maybe it will be mine too. That, and junk snacks, and coffee.

A food-related digression: My mother had a rule about breakfast cereals: Nothing with marshmallows. Everything else was OK (which essentially translated into us eating as much sugary cereal at breakfast as we wanted, so long as they contained no evidently noxious marshmallows).

Once a month, our grandparents baby-sat us on a weekend overnight in their apartment in Yonkers (complete with plastic on the couches). Our grandfather would take us out in his Buick (I sometimes got to drive with him in his Gremlin, which smelled of his pipe tobacco, though I don’t think there was room in that tiny P.O.S. for my sister, younger than me) to pick up Grandma from her part-time job at Alexander’s department store.

Then it was off to a pizza dinner (sometimes it was The Ground Round, with silent Our Gang and Abbott and Costello films — literally films — projected on the screen in the dining room and baskets of salty popcorn and peanuts in the shell at every table). Dinner was followed by a trip to Child World toy store (with the Peter Panda mascot) and Waldbaum’s supermarket (yes, we were spoiled rotten by our grandparents).

To top it off, at the precocious ages of 10 and 7, perhaps younger, we’d assure Grandma that, yes, of course our mom allowed us to eat Lucky Charms, Boo-Berry, or whatever other heavenly marshmallow-laden cereal we could hungrily toss into the shopping car. We would happily gorge ourselves on the stuff the next morning, with cat-that-ate-the-canary smiles crinkling across our faces at the breakfast table when mom and dad would come by to pick us up.

If they made Cheez Doodles cereal, we would have had Grandma buy it, too.


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