The other day I stumbled across one of those ubiquitous top ten clickbait lists on Facebook. I couldn’t resist finding out about the ten foods that disgust Europeans and Americans enjoy. Unsurprisingly, Velveeta was one of those foods.
The product is certainly a convenience food. The stuff has a very long shelf life. You can store it in a cupboard without refrigeration until you open it. I usually keep one
box on hand for emergencies like getting trapped indoors during a blizzard. Out of curiosity, I just checked my small box of Velveeta. I noticed that it is approaching its expiration date, so I set it out to use it up. Maybe I’ll prepare some nachos or make a Crock Pot dish.
I’ve often wondered about the origins of foods labled “Pasturized Prepared Cheese Product”. The stuff cannot really be called cheese because it is not produced in the same manner as legitimate cheese. Pasturized Prepared Cheese Product is a mainstay of school lunch programs, and other US Department of Agriculture’s food and nutrition assistance programs. The rest of us recognize it as the surprisingly expensive boxed Velveeta or its store label equivilant.
This foodstuff was invented in 1918 as the solution to a big, unprofitable problem for the Monroe Cheese Company of Monroe, New York. Swiss cheese wheels often yielded broken, unsellable pieces. Emil Frey came up with the answer: incorporate the broken cheese pieces into a whey and curd mixture. The product was then manufactured by a separate division of the Monroe Cheese Company under the trade name “Velveeta”.
In 1927, the Velveeta Cheese Company was acquired by Kraft. The larger corporation marketed Velveeta to people who wanted a bland cheese option and to women who were on weight reducing diets.
In 1949, Kraft introduced the Velveeta derivitive product, “Kraft Singles”. To avoid direct competition with the new product, Kraft marketed Velveeta as a recipe ingredient for homemakers to prepare sauces and dips. It was advertised and promoted for its smoothness and melting ability.
By the end of the 1980s, bonafide cheese was no longer one of the ingredients of the product and Velveeta was comprised of cows’ milk, whey, skim milk, milk protein concentrate, water, milkfat, whey protein concentrate and several non-dairy additives and preservatives. There were no “non-starter” bacteria present as are used in the production of actual cheese. It is the presence of these micororganisms that contribute to the robust flavors and aromas of different legitimate cheeses.
In 2002, the Federal Drug Administration noticed that Velveeta did not contain actual cheese, so the agency requested that Kraft remove the words “cheese spread” off of its packaging and substitute it with a more truthful description.
Now, I have only one minor problem with Velveeta. How am I going to use up my box before its expiration date of June 17th?