If I had a penny every time someone said Velveeta was ‘a staple of their childhood’ I would have enough to buy a Family Size box of this cheesy American favorite. Regarding taste, I’ve heard nothing but raving reviews. This seems to have been the mentality in our country since the Great Depression, when Velveeta products were at the peak of its popularity. So if Grandma brings out a vat during Thanksgiving dinner, she may just be nostalgic.
Velveeta seems to have flown under the radar in the past few decades as more modern brands have risen to prominence and every other person is vegan or “health conscious”. The good news is that vegans can *almost* get away with eating this crap because if you hadn’t already guessed by its neon orange color and glue-like texture, it is NOT real cheese! 😱
Velveeta was actually created as sort of an experiment in the ’20s by Swiss immigrant Emil Frey, who worked for the Monroe Cheese Company in New York. Looking for a solution to utilize damaged cheese wheels, he basically threw the scraps together, added some whey protein, and said “voila.” He created the mixture that would later become the face of the Velveeta Cheese Company, sold as one-pound, 16 serving bricks of ‘pasteurized processed cheese product’ that was cheap, versatile, and delicious.
You can go ahead and rethink your kale smoothie this morning because Velveeta was, at one point in time, advertised as a healthy superfood according to the American Medical Association. This 1958 Velveeta commercial boasts that 2 ounces of the product give children “more high quality protein, more calcium and more phosphorus than an 8oz glass of milk.” The commercial also advertises Velveeta as a perfect option for mothers trying to watch their figures. From personal experience, I attest that this is false advertising at its finest. Looking back at the nutrition facts of a single serving of Velveeta today is pretty atrocious: 80 calories (50 from fat), 6 grams of fat (4 from saturated fat) and 410mg of sodium. And with all of this cheese, you’re only getting 15 percent of your daily dose of calcium. Although during a time where families had an average of $9 a week to feed a family of 4, you can’t exactly pitch for fresh Brie.
Earlier this week, a friend insisted that I try Velveeta, exclaiming that it was the best mac and cheese she’d ever had. Those are words I don’t take lightly. We went to the store intending to whip up 2 giant boxes of Velveeta to fuel us for a long Monday night of studying. After finishing these boxes we may or may not have came back for a third.
Confession: I didn’t want to like it. I wanted to take a bite, spit it out, say: “this tastes like whey protein concentrate, sodium phosphate, lactic acid, apocarotenal and a shit ton of salt” and go eat a salad. To my dismay, I can attest that Velveeta is everything it claims to be: gooey, creamy, and deliciously cheesy. All visions I had of “finishing out the semester strong” or fitting into my high school prom dress for formal this weekend went out the window, but it was worth every bite. As I began to make a significant dent in the 24 suggested servings of mac & cheese, I felt guilty not only because I was endangering my vital organs but because I genuinely LOVED the taste and texture of something so extremely artificial. With each spoonful, my mind wandered back to Emil in his cheese factory, giving absolutely no f*cks, throwing all his cheese scraps into a giant bucket, and creating the cheesy goodness that I can’t seem to get enough of. Velveeta is definitely the mistake child of the cheese family — by no means is it finely crafted cuisine, but that doesn’t make it any less delectable.
Overall, the experience was pretty much everything my friend promised it would be, except that after multiple trips to the bathroom, I can really see why they call it ‘liquid gold’. But there were no leftovers in the fridge the next day. The damage had been done, and not a soul was left hungry that night.