#30) The tragic death of Mama Zuma’s lover

It’s kind of ironic: celebrities are paid millions to endorse products, but yesterday I bought a bag of habanero potato chips from my friends’ store, Olives Gourmet Grocer, after being inspired by a fictional character.

Mama Zuma, you see, is the face of Route 11’s habanero-flavored potato chip.  The habanero, for those who don’t know, is the hottest pepper (much hotter than a jalapeno) that you can get without having to go on the black market.  But there are a surprising number of gluttons for gastronomical punishment out there, which means that there are many entrants into the habanero potato chip market.  So Route 11 decided that Mama Zuma might make their product stand out.

But they didn’t just stop at having a sexy cartoon character emblazoned on the bag.  They gave Mama Zuma back story.  She wasn’t always mean, you see.  But when her lover died in a “bizarre and tragic potato peeler accident”, it drove her into a fit of rage and she made her life’s mission to burn as many men as possible with her kiss of fire.

Well, any mind creative enough to come up with a story like that deserves my dollar, I decided, so I picked up a bag to go with my lunch.  The chips were deceptive: at first, they tasted more like strong barbecue chips, but the real habanero flavor kicked in and I quickly required a water chaser.  I would recommend them, but those who are not used to the taste of a habanero pepper should start with one at a time.

But the real point is that what attracted me to Mama Zuma was not the fact, but the fiction.  So many commercials are fact-oriented, which gets boring pretty quickly.  (Go on all you want about how your food is made on a self-sustaining farm in Guam by indigenous peoples who are paid a fair wage; you’ve lost me after ten seconds).  No matter how much celebrities may be paid to tell me what to buy, Mama Zuma’s tragic story made her product jump out at me from among all of my other lunch choices.   In the end, I was just another one of her victims.


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