In the culinary world, there are some foods that are impossible not to link with one another: peanut butter and jelly, cake and frosting, spaghetti and meatballs—the list goes on and on. While some of these combos are due to the symbiotic relationship of the two parties involved, others are based off of the pure dependance that one ingredient has on another. When I went to buy the four different types of cheese dip for this week’s tasting, I was reminded of these kinds of relationships. I had told myself that in order to have the fairest taste test possible, I wouldn’t try these dips with chips, so that I could more fully taste the dips themselves. This, my friends, was a crucial mistake. Cheese dip is something that needs accompaniments 100% of the time, either in the form of chips, a tall glass of water, or a Life Alert. My dire mistake to eat these dips without any sort of vehicle is one that I would not wish upon my worst enemy, as these are some of the strangest food items in the general market today. So with that, lets dive right in.
First up in the tasting was Kraft’s contender, Cheez Whiz. Now, the Cheez Whiz I’m accustomed to comes in an ominous spray can and looks more like yellow whipped cream than cheese. This Cheez Whiz is most likely the same product; however, this one came in a glass jar and was located in the refrigerated dairy section, unlike any of the other cheese dips (I couldn’t tell if this was a good or bad thing at the time, only to later find out it was a very very bad thing.) When I opened the jar, I was simultaneously hit with a sense of curiosity and nausea. What I had expected to be a flowing, lava-like substance was solidified into a block that didn’t budge an inch when I turned the jar upside-down. When I finally summoned up enough courage to heat up a spoonful and taste it, I was so scarred by what I had seen, that I was unable to shake the image of the inverted jar from my head. The flavor was fine, although to be completely honest, most of these cheese dips tasted exactly the same: a slight hint of cheese with a smothering tanginess of either mustard or Worcestershire sauce. Where a few of the dips had at least a faint hit of dairy flavor, Cheez Whiz tasted way more like cheez than cheese. Even though the flavor wasn’t neccesarily more offensive than any of the other brands, I have to take off points in reparation for the crippling fear that I will now forever have to live with after seeing this thing defy gravity.
Up next was Tostitos, the clear favorite. Tostitos knows how to make people happy. Everyone knows the feeling of opening up a fresh bag of Tostitos tortilla chips and being overcome with over-salted glee. In fact, the official snack of my sketch comedy troupe at Vassar is wholly made up of Tostitos products: a family size bag of hint-of-lime tortilla chips (HOLT for short), and a jar of spinach and artichoke dip. That being said, after my encounter with Cheez Whiz I felt safer than ever in the arms of Tostitos. Here are three reasons why Tostitos rocked this taste test. 1. When I opened the jar, THE CHEESE DIP ACTUALLY MOVED. Watching the dip flow out of the jar and into the bowl was pure poetry, and everyone deserves to feel that happy at some point in their life. 2. The dip was the least salty of the bunch, which made me think that the gods over at Tostitos knew that no one in their right mind would attempt to eat this stuff without a bag of chips right by their side. Smart thinking. 3. (And probably the most important one) This dip was made with real cheese. That’s right, REAL CHEESE. Who would have thought that this would even be a concern when doing a cheese taste test, but right there on the label Monterey Jack was listed as a main ingredient. Was the flavor great? Of course not—it’s still cheese dip. But at least there was some definable cheese in it.
At this point in the taste test, I was exhausted. I could feel my blood begin to thicken into a golden paste as it ran through my veins. My mouth was numb from the heavy handed use of Worcestershire sauce in every dip, and to top it all off I had a migraine. Needless to say, I was not very gung-ho to try another dip, even if it was Utz, king of the pretzel empire. Unlike Tostitos, Utz here didn’t take into account the possibility that people would be eating their cheese dip with chips or pretzels. I mean, this thing tasted like a salt lick. So much so, that I could only really have one or two spoonfuls of it before needing to tap out. Along with the taste, the greyish color of the Utz dip was really unappetizing, sharing a little bit too much resemblance with clay for my liking.
Last up was the Fritos cheese dip. Now, it only seems obvious to me that if a chip/cracker company has a dip product, it should be pretty decent. I mean, who would know what makes a good dip better than the people who make the very thing that is dipped! While this was the case with Tostitos, Utz failed to prove this hypothesis, as did poor, poor Fritos. Where the other dips tasted way too much like mustard and Worcestershire, this dip tasted too much like nothing. In fact, it had an overpowering taste of nothing. I mean this in the way where you take a few spoonfuls of something only because you can’t distinguish what it tastes like, rather than it actually being good. While having no flavor might not seem like a horrendous offense, it’s a bit of a different story when you’re eating something with such a distinct texture. Since this dip was blander than air, all I could focus on was the gelatinous texture of the dip, which was so unnerving that it made me want to check my health insurance policy just to be safe.