A Brief Statement on Eating Cheetos with Chopsticks

The following photograph has crossed my desk quite a bit recently:

poe knows

In it, actor Oscar Isaac is pictured enjoying a bag of Cheetos with the aid of a pair of orange-stained chopsticks, his fingers pictured free of that same orange residuum.

I first came across the picture in this tweet, or one like it — I can’t seem to find the “original,” but this tweet links back to a Facebook page that is probably the source of the joke:

As longtime readers know, I advocated what Mr. Isaac is practicing — specifically, using chopsticks to eat Cheetos — back in 2010, in Wondermark episode #601, “The Discovery that Changed the World”.

I am certainly not the first person to have thought of it, and clearly I was not the last! However, I am very glad that this particular “life hack” has gained popularity, regardless of its provenance. It’s simply a better way to live.

In the time since I published my version, I’ve had the pleasure of seeing the comic be spread far and wide. People post pictures of themselves eating Cheetos or popcorn or similar things, and hold up chopsticks, and tag me in the picture. And it’s become one of only about a dozen specific comics whose episode number I remember by heart, since I am often asked for prints of it.

The basic idea came to me several years before I made the comic. In 2006, I was working at an ad agency in Beverly Hills. I believe I was editing TV spots for the James Franco movie Tristan & Isolde — either that, or the James Franco movie Flyboys. I forget which it was; I worked on both, for the same agency, a few months apart.

The easiest place to get lunch was a Bristol Farms supermarket a few blocks away. If you’ve never been to Bristol Farms, it’s a sort of fancy, higher-end supermarket, similar to Whole Foods but without the sanctimony.

They had (or, presumably, still have) a sushi bar in that Bristol Farms. The experience of eating there inspired comic #171; In which Hiroshi misses the Point.

So, because of the sushi bar, there were always disposable chopsticks sitting out for the grabbin’, and I made a sort of game of it, trying to see if I could eat my lunch with chopsticks every day, no matter what it was. (It was usually a panini, and so the answer was usually “not without some difficulty.”)

Since I only had a brief period for lunch before I had to get back to hitting a keyboard with my fingers for hours, chopsticks quickly became the perfect tool to prolong the pleasure of a bag of Cheetos throughout the afternoon to come.

I don’t know why it took me four years to make a comic about it. I do remember my producer in those days calling out what I was doing, and I think it took seeing more and more surprised reactions before I realized that maybe it wasn’t 100% obvious to everyone that this was the best way to eat Cheetos. I had to come to the understanding that I’d made a discovery; I had experienced a revelation. (Similar to the time I accidentally came across a better salad fork.)

Once I actually made the comic, and I started to see that people were really responding to it, I briefly had the thought of contacting Frito-Lay and saying “Hey, maybe you could do a special thing, where you… I dunno, package chopsticks along with the bag? Or something? Is there any possible way that there could be money in this for me somehow?”

The pitch wasn’t really more refined than that, so you will not be surprised to learn it was never successful.

But every now and then, moments like Oscar Isaac, here, reassure me that word is indeed getting out, and lives are indeed being improved, one orange-stained chopstick at a time.

I don’t know if Mr. Isaac has ever seen the original comic; I’m sure the idea came to him via tenth-hand means, or perhaps he thought of it himself. But I am incredibly gratified to see that the idea is out there, and that it’s becoming obvious.

Does Frito-Lay know the secret? Surely they must have heard by now. Here is what seals the deal for me: A TV commercial from 2011, showing Chester Cheetah playing terrible piano with a lady in a piano shop.

They are playing — of course — “Chopsticks.”