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.