Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Made To Mix

For a long time a popular brand of potato chips used the slogan ‘Betcha can’t eat just one.’ Probably a serious challenge for many potato chip lovers, and a great come-on for a snack product. It must have been successful because Lay’s continued to use the slogan for forty-five years. Nothing against potato chips; I have definitely eaten my share of them, but the ‘Betcha can’t eat just one’ challenge doesn’t describe my taste for any of the many different brands and flavors. Easy enough to turn my back on a bowl of potato chips after only one, or even none. Potato chips that is.

I wasn’t long back in the US from some years abroad when my ignorance of a popular snack surprised a roomful of people at a party. Chomping my way through a bowl of something crunchy in that bet-you-can’t-eat-just-one mode, I said to my friend the host, “What is this stuff? It’s pretty good. Where’d you get it?” Two or three turned to me with a look of disbelief. One wanted to know if I’d been locked away in prison, another asked—as if Mars were a possibility—“Where do you come from?” My friend stepped in to answer for me, then wondered, “Don’t they have Chex Mix in Japan?” Mmm…do they? Maybe, but I never ran across it in my time there.

But from the moment of that first mouthful, ask and I’ll tell you that Chex Mix is the Rolls Royce of the snack world. Proof is in, I definitely can’t eat just one, or one handful. Might be better on trips to the market for me to avoid the aisle with Chex Mix. The temptation is to buy one bag of all fifteen varieties. The best of the bunch is the Chipotle Chex Mix, but I’ve found that only once and it isn’t listed on the Chex Mix homepage. Maybe it was a trial market.

In 1952 fans of Wheat Chex and Rice Chex breakfast cereals began mixing the two, following directions on the box and adding a few other crunchy tidbits, making their own party snack. The photo at the top is a Chex advertisement from the June 16, 1952 issue of Life Magazine. At the bottom right is a recipe for party mix. Origins of the snack are tied to the introduction of television, when people mesmerized by the new technology wanted snacks that could be eaten without interrupting a television show. I missed all of this, maybe because Chex cereals were not popular in my family or circle of acquaintances, or maybe in the 1950s everyone I knew happily watched I Love Lucy and Burns and Allen without any thought to snacks.

The first Chex Mix snack packs didn’t appear on US market shelves until 1985. By then I was long gone and learning to like far eastern alternatives like Tongari Corn and Pocky Sticks.

It’s a regular these days but if you’d asked me a year ago I wouldn’t have known Chex Mix from Anna Nicole Smith. Now I’ve got the first part but I’m still trying to figure out who Anna Nicole Smith is.


  1. Love it. Captures the stranger-back-in-his-own-strange-native-land perfectly. Calls to mind all the movies and books about a caveman suddenly plopped down in a civilization of Big Macs and candy snacks. But still interesting to those of us who have had Chex Mix for a while--but who knew the recipe goes back to 1952 at least.

  2. Strange, but I've never liked the mix. I like the cereals by themselves, even as a snack - but not mixed with all the other "stuff." That's just fine - I have enough other vices, Wheat Pringles, Lays classic chips, peanut butter pretzels, etc., etc. I really don't need another one. Glad you enjoy it, though.


About Me

My photo
Oak Hill, Florida, United States
A longtime expat relearning the footwork of life in America