JERSEY CITY, N.J. — They say one man’s trash is another’s treasure.
For vintage food expert Old Smokey and collector Josh Macuga, cohosts of the History Channel’s “Eating History” — a reality show where the men are on a quest to unearth (and eat!) the oldest foods to have stood the test of time — that treasure is one Jersey City family’s unopened can of Doritos from 1999.
On the April 15 episode “A Space Odyssey,” the duo stop by an estate sale inside the folk Victorian, 18th Century-era Jersey City home on Belmont Avenue where they poked around for some vintage gems. Everything from Red Rose Tea Company figurines to a 1966 J.C. Higgins bicycle, which estate executor Mike Deblois’ sister gifted him for his confirmation, were on display in the living room courtesy of Ed Frischkorn, operations manager of Remember When Antiques And Estate Sales, an estate liquidator based in Hasbrouck Heights. Frischkorn, who was the broker of the sale, was contacted earlier this year by the show’s producer who saw the sale advertised on social media and asked if the hosts could stop by and film what would be part of the second-half of the episode at the residence.
The crew spent a whole day in February at the home filming the show. On it, they browse the items around the home before hitting the pantry where they had their real fun. But it wasn’t the A&P brand boxed mashed potatoes from the 1960s and the Banquet Chicken in a Can from the 1950s that caught their eye. It was the unopened can of nacho cheese Doritos dating back to 1999 that sparked genuine nostalgia — and a trip down memory lane to Smokey’s childhood. The expiration date was marked May 30, 2000. While eating expired foods is dangerous, it’s well worth the calculated risk for these vintage food connoisseurs — an adventure these collectors of edible artifacts liken to the “closet thing to time travel.”
“I let them eat whatever they wanted,” said Deblois by phone, adding that he wasn’t bothered in the least when the two went to town on his deceased parents’ long forgotten foods.
To dispel any preconceived misconceptions, his mother wasn’t a hoarder by any stretch of the imagination. The foods, which Deblois remembers shopping for at the local grocery store with his mother, were simply never eaten and untouched for decades.
“With a large pantry and four kids, it’s easier to push things to the back of the shelf,” said Deblois, a retired sales representative in the cell phone business, of his childhood home, the sale items of which he said his family were oblivious to any particular future value or interest.
“Some of these items were just lost in the pantry for a long time,” said Deblois. “When we were doing a clean-out of the house, all these things were popping up. It’s strange how things fall through the cracks.”
Before sitting down to pop the bite-sized chips, the buds gave a brief history lesson about their formation in Disneyland circa the 1960s at Casa de Fritos, a Mexican quick-service joint. The idea for the chip spawned from discarded tortillas, which the restaurant staff decided to fry up and plate as chips as an appetizer. The tortilla chips hit the shelves in 1966, and the rest as they say, is history.
Taking a seat at the kitchen table, Old Smokey cracked open the can, tossed a chip in his mouth and rolled his eyes back in the process. (One could surmise the verdict.)
“The consistency is perfect,” he said, noting the “mild, tangy” flavor of the chips which were apparently surprisingly savory.
A similar reaction was elicited by Macuga, who popped a second, third and fourth chip after the first.
“Perfect crunch,” said Macuga.
“I never thought I would find Doritos in a can to re-taste my childhood,” said Old Smokey. “I’m finishing that can.”
The Doritos ranked number 2 on a list of four after a box of Minute Rice that stood the test of time.
To view the full episode, visit History.com.