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In Memoriam

August 4, 2010

Some people might say that The Half Empty Glass has an inordinate focus on death and dead people.  On the surface, that’s not unreasonable I guess.  After all, we do have a well-used tag for “Dead Guys” (though we also have one for “Not Dead Guys”).

But the thing is that we (usually) use people’s deaths as a moment to recognize and celebrate their achievements and memories.

This is one of those moments.

Last week, Morrie Yohai, the inventor of Cheez Doodles, died.  This is a moment that should be recognized.

Here’s the story:

“They were looking for a new salty snack and became aware of a machine that processed corn meal under high pressure into a long tube shape,” Robbie Yohai said on Monday. “They also discovered that if they used a high-speed blade, similar to a propeller, they could cut three-inch-long tubes, which then could be flavored with orange cheddar cheese and seasonings.” Then baked, not fried.

Although Mr. Yohai insisted on the “we” credit for the recipe, he did say that he came up with the product name. First marketed in the late 1950s, Cheez Doodles soon became so popular that by 1965, Old London Foods was bought by Borden, and Mr. Yohai became vice president of Borden’s snack food division, which among other products made Drake’s Cakes and Cracker Jack.

One of his duties, he said, was sitting around a table with other executives and choosing which tiny toys would be stuffed into Cracker Jack boxes.

Morrie Robert Yohai was born in Harlem on March 4, 1920, one of four children of Robert and Mary Habib Yohai, Jewish immigrants from Turkey. The family later moved to the Bronx.

Mr. Yohai graduated from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in 1941 and began working for Grumman Aircraft on Long Island. After enlisting in the Navy during World War II in 1942, he transferred to the Marines and saw action in the South Pacific.
Design credit notwithstanding, Mr. Yohai took pride in the popularity of Cheez Doodles. At his home, he kept a photograph of Julia Child digging into a bag.

In 2004, he, his wife and children visited a museum in Napa Valley, Calif., where an artist, Sandy Skoglund, had mounted a life-size installation showing several people at a cocktail party — all covered in Cheez Doodles.

“My mother told everyone in the entire museum that he invented them,” Robbie Yohai said.

To me, Cheez Doodles are the real thing — whether puffed or crunchy — and blow Cheetos out of the water. So let’s all do our part to honor the memory of Mr. Yohai and grab a bag of Doodles and enjoy. Cheers.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. jco permalink
    August 4, 2010 11:06 am

    Baked? The crunchy cheez doodles are fried, I’m quite sure. Which is why they are so good.

    • Fat Al permalink*
      August 4, 2010 11:10 am

      Sure, but I guess the original were the baked puffed ones.

      Like many other things, deep-frying brought them to a whole ‘nother level.

  2. August 4, 2010 12:14 pm

    My fingers will be orange today in memoriam. They serve Cheez Doodles in my companies snack machine and I will indulge.


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