January 18, 2014

"For those many, many people who were raised on processed cheese, there is a memory connected with it that can’t be discounted in terms of its importance..."

"It’s a bite of the past, and that trumps flavor every time."

A quote from an article at Smithsonian.com on the history of Velveeta. That's just the next thing that interested me on line, not something I went looking for after that last post, which had food writer Michael Pollan giving us reason to enjoy some of the products of civilization (bread and other cooked foods), absolving us of the sense of obligation to return to whatever it is we imagine nourished the caveman, but not touching upon the mystic chords of memory of the more recent past, the days of mothers in aprons and the things that yielded so willingly to melting in that vividly golden childhood of yore.

And let's remember the psychology of environmentalism. Weren't we just talking about the problem of the industrial byproduct of all that Greek-style yogurt we've been eating? From the Smithsonian article:
[Emil Frey, a Swiss cheesemaker who moved from Switzerland to upstate New York, where he worked in cheese factories in the late 1880s]... figured out how... to help recoup some of the [cheese] factory's waste. He learned that by adding a by-product of cheesemaking called whey, which is the liquid released from curds during the cheesemaking process, to the leftover Swiss bits, he could create a very cohesive end-product. Frey named the product Velveeta....

31 comments:

Oso Negro said...

Oh yes. My childhood memories if my mother in an apron heating up pot pies and fish sticks or any other damn thing that meant no effort on her part. The early 60s were a cultural peak of culinary atrocity.

St. George said...

It's a cheese....and a girl's name!

Along with Cheesette, Oleomargarine, and Dijonanaise...

Amexpat said...

He learned that by adding a by-product of cheesemaking called whey, which is the liquid released from curds during the cheesemaking process, to the leftover Swiss bits, he could create a very cohesive end-product.

Norwegians have been making a brown cheese made from whey for centuries. It doesn't taste anything like, or have the texture of, Velveeta. It has a caramel taste due to heating of the milk sugar in the whey.

rhhardin said...

Cheese cornucopia 2008

I notice my kroger tag produces an interesting series link, of interest to those attracted to sign nazis and important public communications among the retail folk.

St. George said...

Interesting how "trash" is used to make food and how it is marketed.

Would you eat a Chapul bar?

Dates, chocolate, walnuts, flax, peanuts, and protein flour..i.e. ground processed cricket flesh.

The smaller the animals people eat, the poorer the civilization.

The scam here is that it's being marketed to appeal to people as a politically-conscious "revolutionary" food choice that benefits the environment...and your body!

madAsHell said...

Grilled Velveeta cheese sandwiches slathered in mayonnaise, and butter. They were then cooked in a frying pan.

I wonder how many years those sandwiches have taken off the end of my life.

Bruce Hayden said...

Did like Velveeta grilled cheese sandwiches. Was a bit traumatic as I exited childhood and discovered that they could be made with real cheese. And, that that is how most people made them. I think that my mother was an avid Velveeta disciple, and that rubbed off on me a bit.

My partner has a nice recipe (which she won't share) for soup that uses Velveeta that we made last summer. All I remember was how much work it was, all the stirring (apparently, her theory is that since it is her recipe, my part of it was the brute effort), and how good it tasted. And, that no matter how much I begged, I couldn't get a chunk of the stuff to eat.

Ann Althouse said...

"The smaller the animals people eat, the poorer the civilization."

I think there are a few examples of smaller being more elite. Oysters. Squab instead of chicken. Lamb rather than mutton.

lemondog said...

Velveeta looks like melted plastic.

This guy prefers Swiss

Ann Althouse said...

"Dates, chocolate, walnuts, flax, peanuts, and protein flour..i.e. ground processed cricket flesh."

Do insects have "flesh"? Isn't "flesh" just muscle... and do insects have "muscle"... and if not, what do they have that enables them to move?

From Wikipedia's article on "flesh":

"With regard to biology, flesh is the soft substance of a human or other animal body that consists of muscle and fat; for vertebrate, this especially includes muscle tissue (skeletal muscle), as opposed to bones and viscera. Flesh may be used as food, in which case it is commonly called meat."

So... for the invertebrate, what are we talking about? Lobsters have flesh, right? Is it muscle or something more akin to the goo that exudes from a stepped-on grasshopper?

I've never thought about this before, but I see that insects do have muscles:

"Unlike vertebrates that have both smooth and striated muscles, insects have only striated muscles. Muscle cells are amassed into muscle fibres and then into the functional unit, the muscle. Muscles are attached to the body wall, with attachment fibres running through the cuticle and to the epicuticle, where they can move different parts of the body including appendages such as wings. The muscle fibre has many cells with a plasma membrane and outer sheath or sarcolemma. The sarcolemma is invaginated and can make contact with the tracheole carrying oxygen to the muscle fibre. Arranged in sheets or cylindrically, contractile myofibrils run the length of the muscle fibre. Myofibrils comprising a fine actin filament enclosed between a thick pair of myosin filaments slide past each other instigated by nerve impulses."

The sarcolemma is invaginated... There is so much I don't know.

CWJ said...

Love velveeta for making cheese toasties.

But for me, the product that has followed me nearly all my life is Tang. Unfortunately, Tang changed its formula a few years back and I suffered a "New Coke" moment. Fortunately after trying a couple of store brands, I found one that tastes more like Tang than Tang.

Fritz said...

"The sarcolemma is invaginated... There is so much I don't know."

Just biologists dirty talk.

virgil xenophon said...

In the 50s in small-town rural Illinois my Mother made a facsimile "spaghetti and meatballs" by cooking spaghetti , mixed-in ground beef, and velveeta all at the same time in a big bubbling cast iron skillet. Actually the amorphous mix was remarkably "tastee" considering the condiments/food alternatives available in small-town white-bread America at the time....remember, "eating Chinese" in those days meant that noxious Chung King stuff (do they even sell it any more?) that comes in a tall can with the small can attached underneath with those hard "Chinese Noodles" Remember those? LOL!

Carol said...

I don't like velveeta so much as good ol american cheese, which is getting really hard to find. it's all cheese food now...probably thanks to velveeta.

The processed stuff does melt better.

Original Mike said...

Velveeta. Yuck.

Chef Mojo said...

Velveeta + Mexican chorizo = Rockin' good chili con queso. Is it good for you? Hell, no. But it sure is tasty on game day.

Velveeta was a barometer of the relative wealth of my family. While dad was a junior officer in the Navy, there were a lot of Velveeta grilled cheese sandwiches for us kids. As dad got promoted, there was less Velveeta in our lives. Mom still refers to the JO years as the "Velveeta years."

Inga said...

For any who make homemade Greek yougurt, don't throw that whey out. It can be used in to enrich cold drinks, to soak oats and other grains in (to diminish lectins) and to help boost bread dough when making sourdough/semi sourdough breads. Chock full of lactobacilli.

Freeman Hunt said...

Someone I know who had never had a Velveeta grilled cheese tried one the other day and informed me that it was superior to the regular kind. I have never had a Velveeta grilled cheese and am now curious. Perhaps it is truly superior to actual cheese in some applications.

Chef Mojo said...

Freeman, for the full Velveeta grilled cheese experience, you have to use regular store brand white bread, or better yet, Wonderbread. Butter was used in my household, because dad insisted on that little luxury. Plus, it was the law at the time that Navy ships could only use butter. He really appreciated that. Cut the Velveeta into a nearly 1/2 inch slab for each sandwich. Butter and grill in a pan until toasted and melted. Contents will be hot.

traditionalguy said...

As Championship Sunday approaches, shoppers everywhere are scoffing up the Velveeta, the Ro-tel tomatoes and the chips.

That diet is the basic Cave Man Diet washed down with Budweiser.

Inga said...

Trad Guy,
Rotel, Velveeta, Jimmy Dean sausage and a can of green chiles combo dip for the win!

heyboom said...

Funny, just had a nice Velveeta grilled cheese sandwich two days ago. It's not like we're eating them 24/7 though, that was the first one I've had in years.

heyboom said...

Is Velveeta getting extra attention now because they just announced a possible shortage?

Freeman Hunt said...

Velveeta should market itself as a Swiss product. All the fancies would suddenly "discover" its culinary value.

bwebster said...

Ditto. Back in the 60s, I took two Velveeta sandwiches to school with me every day; ate one at recess and the other at lunch. (I was a skinny kid, in case anyone's wondering.) Also, my mom's mac-and-cheese was made with Velveeta, and it's still my favorite recipe; it's what I use to make mac-and-cheese myself.

Seeing Red said...

Velveeta Mac & Cheese is the only Mac & Cheese I'll eat, when my arteries let me which is about never. Kraft is disgusting. I don't know what those kids are thinking.

Velveeta, butter, (skim) milk & I add onion powder at the end.

Also, turn on the broiler, white bread, leftover spaghetti meat sauce & Velveeta on the top. YUMMY!

Also the cocktail rye, Jimmy Dean pork sausage & Velveeta mix.

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

virgil: there is a recipe in Miss Kay's cookbook for chow mein that utilizes the big can double-pack can of stuff. She says it's one of Phil's favorites.

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

And I am a cheese-lover: all kinds but Swiss and Limburger: and I prefer processed cheese for grilled cheese sandwiches. Nice smooth, salty melt.

And the only thing that beats velveeta+sausage+ro-tel in the gutbomb department is a good Frito pie. At home we make them with Wolf chili and shredded cheddar cheese, but if you buy them at, say, a Little League ballfield concession stand you'll get an individual baggie of Fritos topped with chili and Rico's nacho cheese sauce.

Revenant said...

Velveeta makes excellent cheese dip of all sorts. That's reason enough to like it, in my view.

gadfly said...

I don't know why all the buzz about Chobani using whey to fertilize farm fields. Wisconsin farmers have been benefiting from whey delivered to their farm fields on tank trucks with sprayers for half a century at least. The Wisconsin Agriculture folks have been monitoring this recycling process to make sure that farm fields do not become two acid. When you think about it - high grade whey goes into human food such as Velveta and animal feed such as dried high protein whey for veal calves but watered down and flavor contaminated whey has but two places to go and streams and waterways are not the preferred choice.

Brian McKim & Traci Skene said...

When I was a kid, we had some Velveeta around the house for a little while. But, eventually, we no longer bought it. I suspect that my mother, being frugal, happened upon a coupon (which was probably issued as an effort to bolster Kraft's market share in the face of a competitor), and sampled the product. As we were living in South Jersey, we really had no need to continue to buy Velveeta (as we had plenty of domestic "real" cheeses to choose from-- at comparable prices-- at the local deli), so our brush with fakeness (cheese-wise) was brief. I still occasionally encounter a cheese here or there that echoes my long ago memories of Velveeta... and my impression is that Velveeta was not that bad as cheeses go. Then again, I often champion White Dietz & Watson (or, for that matter, Boar's Head) American Cheese as one of the most underrated cheeses in America.