Before I get started on the business of the day, let me get one thing off my chest.

Having purchased a cell phone a couple of years ago, I realize the benefits of Caller ID. The combination of CID (which verges on psychic voodoo for those of us brought up on Call Waiting as the only whiz-bang feature available on the phone) and spotty cell coverage (a readily believable excuse) gives me a particularly perverse slipperyness. Like Spidey clinging to the warehouse ceiling while the mob bosses conspire.

But there’s a dark side to this technology, and it’s been rearing its head more frequently since I got my new phone with the small mushy buttons: The wrong number callback. Apparently, there’s nothing more panicking to some people than getting a one or two-ring hangup. Here I’ll be, noting that pencils are just not going to help me with this button problem, when I’ll receive a breathless call from someone. They often sound like they’re in the middle of running Deathrace 2002.

“Did you just call me?”

See kids, back in the day, when you only saw Caller ID on cop shows, after the judge granted the warrant, misdialing a phone number was one the few remaining social gaffes you could effectively cover up. There was a window, between the time you dialed the last digit and a strange voice came on, during which you had the option to abort and effectively erase your mistake from history. No apologies and no explanations — nobody had to know you were dialing with your big toe, or that in a drunken stupor you called that ten-year-old entry in your address book for an ex.

But we’re not here to talk phone services, are we, people? If we were, I’d be describing the legendary Carrottop vs. Mr. T deathmatch, on motorcycles in the Cage of Gore. Maybe I’ll still do that someday, but not today. Today we’ll be talking about Cheetos Asteroids.

The trend in snack foods seems to be packaging. Just like we saw non-carbonated drinks start peddling the same old fruit water in fancy glass bottles, so is the snack industry coming up with all sorts of esoteric containers for the same old corn starch. There’s something called Torengo’s, which does to corn what Pringle’s did to potato. I had one of their plastic triangular prisms (Pringle’s tubes are made of aluminized carboard) a couple of weeks ago, but didn’t find anything to write about, other than they’re triangular and hydrodynamically scooped.

These Asteroids are far more interesting. They appear to share the same formula with Chester’s Flaming Hot Cheeto Cheese Fries — the purplish dusting that is the earmark of Frito Lay’s “Flaming Hot” line. Bright magenta rocks about a half-inch in diameter, these look deceptively like crunchberries, making all sorts of breakfast tomfoolery possible. Though they do look like asteroids (or at least the way I imagine asteroids look for a millisecond after they hit atmosphere), I’m still not convinced the name is the shrewdest marketing move — “ass,” “tear,” and “rhoid” are three ready-made ingredients for mockery, especially given the snack’s spicy nature.

That aside, they’re quite tasty, but you have to be into hot things to think so. These are definitely spicier than the average snack palate is used to; no sidling up the doorstep and meekly knocking on the door here. These rocks lean on the horn and burn rubber in your driveway. The packaging top doubles as a handy snack-measuring cup, which you can use to transfer the spheroids from their container to your mouth and avoid leaving purple fingerprints in your wake. I was a bit skeptical of this “feature” (prominently displayed on the package), but I must say it’s a winner, and surely something useful to do with all that extra oil and plastic lying around these days.

Asteroids are only one of a new line of packaged snack foods from Frito Lay. You can read the official press release for the full hype. They’re pricey — my container, which must have had about half the contents of a 99¢ bag, was $1.29. On the other hand, it’s a far more reasonable portion than the cheaper bag, so you can pretend you’re paying extra for a healthier snack.

Kids! Download your fancypants Shelflife {pictureLink (, “Asteroids Desktop”)}, featuring a frightening vision of apocalyptic purple corn balls! Do it now, before Frito Lay catches wind!

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