In Defense of the Indefensible Dorilocos


by Tiana Bakic Hayden


One sunny day in Mexico City, we came across a cluster of middle-aged ladies perched on stools on the sidewalk, gossiping and eating Doritos out of the bag with forks. Cutlery and Doritos seemed like a strange combination —How does one even eat a Dorito with a fork?—, so we decided to inquire further. Turns out these were not just any Doritos: they were Dorilocos.

We found out that this is a —relatively— new street food trend in Mexico; some people say it originated in the north, in Sonora; others assure that Dorilocos come from Mexico City’s notoriously rough Tepito neighborhood. Regardless of where they actually come from, their origin stories give them a tinge of danger and bad-assedness.

Dorilocos are prepared by cutting open a bag of Doritos lengthwise, to make a little serving pouch, and by adding: shredded cucumber, carrots and jícama, chopped onions, pickled pork rinds, salted peanuts and gummy candy, while squirting spicy Salsa Valentina and fruity chamoy sauce on top, and finishing off with fresh squeezed lime juice. It can all be topped off with some grated white cheese, if you feel like it’s missing… flavor.

To the Mexican food purist, Dorilocos may seem a bastardization of authentic Mexican cuisine, an example of everything that is wrong with industrial, globalized food systems. To my mouth —which is admittedly prone to culinary snobbery and purism— this seems like a fairly accurate take on things, but this isn’t a food review. To American foodies, they may seem dangerously similar to Taco Bell’s Doritos Locos tacos, a.k.a. the most successful product in the company’s history. (For those who live in a bucket, Doritos Locos are made with the basic ground beef, shredded lettuce, and neon yellow cheese of a regular Taco Bell Crunchy Taco, but with a fried shell made out of Doritos of different flavors).

Yet at the risk of being an extreme alimentary relativist, I’m going to go ahead and say that Dorilocos are thoroughly Mexican, despite their Frito-Lay base. And what’s more, that they’re not all that different from those delicious cobs of corn smothered in mayonnaise, lime juice, chili, salt, and grated cheese that American foodies are gobbling up in hip restaurants from coast to coast for $5 a pop.

Mexican food is hybrid cuisine, and has been at least since colonial times. That pork in your carnitas taco? Not so much a pre-Hispanic thing. The mayonnaise on your elote? Same. The wheat in your tortilla? Spanish colonial import. The list goes on. And while Frito-Lay may be an Enormous Evil Capitalist Enterprise, the history of food systems is pretty much the history of oppression, exploitation, and appropriation. It’s not pretty, but it is not particularly unique to Doritos.[1]

The combination of salty, sour, spicy, and sometimes a bit of sweet is a popular one in Mexico, where fresh fruits regularly get the salt-chile-lime treatment, and where the condiments that go on tacos —from salsas to chopped onions and radish to fresh lime— are not optional but rather essential. Snacks, from potato chips to popcorn, are regularly served with the lime and hot sauce accompaniment. Dorilocos, then, are just another extension of this combinatory logic, applied to a processed snack food similar to the chicharrón preparado —a popular street food: a fried crunchy wheat-chip base topped with shredded lettuce, tomato, hot sauce and lime.

The food historian Jeffrey Pilcher lauds at the creativity and inventiveness of local Mexican chefs who, he points out, time and time again take the industrial food products that permeate the Mexican food system and appropriate them, churning out something unexpected and new on the other side. Dorilocos are another example of this process. They may not be particularly delicious, but if you’re going to eat a bag of Doritos, maybe adding some shredded veggies and protein isn’t the worst way to do it after all, right?

[1] This isn’t to say that Frito-Lay and company do not deserve to be enormously regulated and taxed. They do. If their executives aren’t joining Gerard Depardieu in Russia to the tune of some reactionary Beatles songs, we are doing something wrong. Right now pretty much nobody is doing anything to ensure that food industries are responsible, but we are comfortable spending all sorts of efforts judging people’s consumption habits, and that is a terribly classist thing to do.