The Blog

4 May 12

On Tuesday, May 1, 2012, a man passed away at his home in Belleville, Ontario at the age of 90.  I had never met that man, but he still managed to play a role in my life.  The man’s name was James E. Marker, and he invented my favourite snacking food; Cheezies.

The word “cheezies” or “cheesies” is often used to describe any kind of cheese snack these days, but to true snackophiles there is only one; the original Hawkins brand Cheezies.  The snack company was started by Mr. Marker and W.T. Hawkins in 1949.  It was Marker who had invented a machine to process cornmeal, and it churned out little knobby, chunky bits of heaven that were fried and covered with a powder made from actual, real, honest-to-goodness cheese.  No two cheezies were the same – each a uniquely shaped and sized morsel of wondrous crunchy goodness.  That crunch is like no other crunch in the world of snacking.  Most other cheesy snacky bits are of the “puff” variety.  You put them in your mouth, and they disappear on your tongue like a magic trick.  It’s like you’re barely eating anything.  Hawkins Cheezies let you know you’re eating something.  There’s a flavour, a texture, and a definite crunch that can’t be replicated.  To put it bluntly – they’re just damn good.

At a certain point in my stand-up career, promoters started asking my booking agent for my “rider”.  That subsequently caused my agent to say to me “What’s your rider?”  I had never really thought of it before.  Being a kid from Saskatchewan, a ‘rider’ is a guy who plays football for the green & white.  But my agent said I had to put one together, so I did.  My rider has changed a bit over the years (actually getting smaller, since I’ve realized most of the stuff would just be going to waste anyway).  But two things have remained as the unchanged and founding pillars of my dressing room request rider:  Rye whisky and Hawkins Cheezies.

Long live the simple pleasures of life.

Thanks Mr. Marker.

The pickles & olives were an added bonus.

The pickles & olives were an added bonus.

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    Comments

    1. April says:

      Yes. I hear ya. If ever there was a superior cheezie, it would be, in my household, unanimously voted the Hawkins brand cheezie.

    2. Brian C says:

      You are a man after my own heart Brett. Hawkins Cheezies are in a league of their own. And along with Crown Royal & ginger!! No need for heaven. I’m already there.

    3. Mike DeNeef says:

      Fitting tribute to a most magnificent comfort food. As an expat for 16+ years – many trips abroad begin with Cheesiest in the luggage.

    4. Mike DeNeef says:

      Oops – got my e-mail addy wrong there; fingers all ‘cheezed’ up:-)

    5. RCN181 says:

      To add to this fact, one will find them on the bottom shelves of groceries stores as the company does not pay the extra fee to have their cheezies on the upper shelves were shoppers can see them easier.
      In Halifax

    6. […] sad news in the snack food world. Twitter led me to Brent Butt’s post about Canada’s loss of James E Marker, the man who invented Hawkins […]

    7. the nasty wench says:

      Crown Royal and Cheezies ……… a man of exquisite tastes!!!!

    8. the nasty wench says:

      and ………………my personal hero …………

      the nasty wench

    9. GK says:

      Easily one of my favourite snack foods, ate bags and bags of them as a kid, and I probably eat too many today (is that possible?). Of course, every time I watch Corner Gas, I get a craving for them. Damn you for making them so prominent in such a good show! :-). Of course, I want some now. Cheezies at 5:30 in the morning aren’t as weird as you might think. It’s grain and dairy after all (like bread and milk, right?).

    10. Murray Helmer says:

      So sad to hear of Mr Markers passing. Cheezies were always the favorite snack food for me too. (Another Saskatchewan kid). As well as being a great snack food. When crushed they make a great coating for Fish. RIP MR Marker. A true Canadian Legend

    11. Dan Davis says:

      Thanks for the post Brent! I would also like give my condolences Mr. Marker. I ate some cheeszies in his honour yesterday with my wife.

      Rest in peace James.

    12. Ramona says:

      This is the one true cheezie. I ate a small bag once a day when I worked a crazy night shift at a call centre. Every evening break I would head to the vending machine ang give it my loonie in exchange for a small bag of goodness.

    13. Debbie says:

      That’s a great blog, and I love your rider! If I ever become famous, my rider will be a Shirley Temple (made the right way, Seven-up, orange juice and grenadine and Barbecue Chicken pizza – the Bob Blumer recipe but made the way my husband does it!). I don’t think we get Hawkins Cheezies in Nova Scotia – we get the ones that melt on your tongue.

    14. Lalita says:

      If that’s your tribute to cheezies… your love letters to the wife must be epic works of masterful poetic art! :)

    15. dawn says:

      I love Cheezies so much. We moved to the US 11 years ago but I still stock up on Cheezies every trip home. Sad sad news.

    16. Mike McEwen says:

      I heard of Mr. Marker’s passing on local radio today, and that you had written a brief paean to his remarkable cheese snack. I agree wholeheartedly with your assessment of the orange crunchy goodness of Cheezies [I do not accept the modern substitution of an ‘s’ – some things are sacrosanct].
      I will be wearing an orange armband this week to go with my orange-stained fingers.

    17. chuck says:

      Well, I was never too fond of any of those type of snacks, but if that was the choice, the one with the crunch was superior by far. If all that was available was the puffy stuff that looked like a bite but disappeared before your teeth could close, they would just sit there awaiting a fossil brush. At least they had a chance of being petrified, then they’d have a bite by golly.

    18. CitizenSourpuss says:

      A man after my own heart! Now I’m picturing a lazy day of lying in a clean hotel bed, fingerpainting swaths of glowingly-orange goodness across the stark, white sheets….

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