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Velveeta


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Although a discussion of Velveeta cheese could be considered a cooking topic, it seems to be more of a food traditions and culture topic. For what is a more middle-class low-brow (sic) American food than the great cheese we know as Velveeta?

Though some may think that Velveeta just sort of fell from the skies one day, a gift from the gods (or a dropping from the devil) Velveeta actually has its own home-made history.

Velveeta is the brand name of a processed cheese product first made in 1918 by Swiss immigrant Emil Frey of the Monroe Cheese Company in Monroe, New York.

Originally an artisan cheese, apparently. But then Velveeta's story takes a different path.

In 1923, The Velveeta Cheese Company was incorporated as a separate company, and was sold to Kraft Foods in 1927.

I've had my own experiences with Velveeta, being a home-grown American. We didn't eat it at home when I was growing up, but there was at least one time in my life (described here in post 5 ) where it exerted a strange and important aura that made me need, not just want, but need, to eat it.

it seemed just right. It actually seemed a luxury. It was soft. One could imagine it warm. It was rich and giving. It was wrapped in lovely shiny silver paper that had a sensual feel of heft and assurance inside the bold yellow cardboard box. It seemed so American, so self-assured, so right, so very settled. Those were the promises that Velveeta held for me that day at Key Food in the narrow scuffed aisles.

That texture. Incredible. That cheezy flavor. Miraculous. In some way.

I was reminded of Velveeta recently when reading Diana Abu-Jaber's book "The Language of Baklava". In discussing the book in another thread, srhcb posted her recipe as it is written in the book, and added his own commentary on the fulsomeness of a grilled Velveeta sandwich:

I found some of the recipes from this book on Mellisa Block's review for NPR's All Things Considered.

I loved the imaginative recipe titles, such as "Subsistence Tabbouleh - for when everything is falling apart", and "Poetic Baklava - for when you need to serenade someone".

But my favorite recipe was, for personal reasons, the model of simplicity and appropriate name:

Comforting Grilled Velveeta Sandwiches

· 2 tablespoons butter

· 4 slices Wonder bread (or other soft white bread)

· 2 thick slabs of Velveeta (this doesn't work as nicely with cheddar, trust me)

Melt the butter in frying pan. Place the cheese sandwiches in the hot butter. Cover and fry until golden on one side, then turn and fry on the other side. The cheese should be oozing and hot. Cut the sandwiches on the diagonal.

Serves 2.

SB (can't imagine cutting this recipe in half to serve 1?  )

How do you use Velveeta? Do you have any Velveeta stories to share?

Or do you think that Velveeta is the devil's headcheese?

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Velveeta, due to its excellent melting properties, is the key ingredient in what my husband calls "comfort food", but others might consider a version of chili con queso. It also is 'the' correct cheese to use in making 'white trash dogs' (poppin'fresh crescent rolls, velveeta, hot dogs. Serve with mustard).

I also used Velveeta to make cheese grits according to a specified recipe for a group dinner. They were freaking fabulous, and nothing McD's et al serve comes close to the wanton inclusion of fat and salt of those grits.

But I dont like to eat it as is.

"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

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I know you've seen my first foodblog and the fridge shot therein. 'Nuff said?

Yes, Velveeta is, like, totally industrial* and about as far from natural cheese as you can go and still call it cheese (the only substances beyond it are Cheez Whiz -- essential for authentic Philly cheesesteaks, say I; an abomination, say others -- and the aerosol stuff), but in certain foods, it's an essential ingredient.

Though I have become comfortable enough making macaroni and cheese using real cheese that I can forgo the Velveeta, it does have a certain comforting (oleaginous?) quality about it that for some reason the genuine article doesn't. (Edited to add: And the funny thing is, to my taste, it's actually sharper than most Cheddars -- to top it, you have to go at least to a very good extra sharp variety.)

*The folks at Sargento mock Velveeta (or is it Philadelphia Brand?) in their current TV commercials depicting boxes labeled "cheese" moving in lockstep along mazes of conveyor belts. It's not clear to me which Kraft product they are mocking, but the label design and colors make it clear they have Kraft in mind.)

Edited by MarketStEl (log)

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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Velveeta, due to its excellent melting properties, is the key ingredient in what my husband calls "comfort food", but others might consider a version of chili con queso.  

in college, this was one of our late night snacks: melt a slab of velveeta, add can of rotel. . .cheese dip heaven.

i remember growing up, my mom would make velveeta grilled cheese sandwiches. . .i can't say that i've really had purpose to eat velveeta since then, except to make said cheese dip.

Edited by VenerableBede (log)
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Dips, give me a 16 ounce brick Velveeta and a variety of canned chilies, jalepenos, frozen spinach, you get the idea...and a microwave I have dip worthy of any superbowl party.

"And in the meantime, listen to your appetite and play with your food."

Alton Brown, Good Eats

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What memories this thread conjures up. My mom used to make us Velveeta open faced broiled cheese and tomato sandwiches. She'd take a piece of toast, add a couple of homegrown tomato slices, a slab of velveeta and put it under the broiler untill the cheese melted and formed a toasted skin on the top. Awsome.

And the other great thing was Johnnie Massetti caserole which incorporated ground beef, chunks of velveeta crushed tomatoes, canned mushrooms and wide egg noodles. It thrown in an oven proof dish and topped with more velveeta and baked until bubbly and brown on the top. This dish doesn't seem to work with any other cheese. You need that oozing consistency.

But I must admit. Velveeta kinda scares me. I mean, how come it doesn't have to be refrigerated until you open the foil wrap. What kind of scary preservatives does this stuff have? Is it really food? Hmmm. Food or not I have some homegrown tomatoes to use up. I think I'll pick up a box on my way home. The broiler awaits.

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I love melting Velveta in the microwave along with a couple of cans of Rotel. It makes a quick easy chip dip.

Ditto, that was my introduction to the volcanic cheese dip...from a dear friend I met at work (a really bad office environment, but made great friends) who moved up north from Memphis, and was insistent that only Ro-Tel brand would do. It made an appearance at all of our afterwork gatherings...

I also loved the grilled cheese sandwiches at the college dining hall, made with Velveeta, bread hard and crusty on the edges. The molten goo had a way of coating the roof of your mouth if you weren't careful.

"Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast" - Oscar Wilde

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My mother was the fisher in my family. She baited her hook for sturgeon with chunks of Velveeta because it kept its shape and color through thick and thin. Our family never ate the stuff, it was only kept around for my moms fishing trips. No way am I gonna *eat* Velveeta but it has a soft spot in my heart if not in my tummy. :raz:

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Twin Peaks

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Velveeta was the go-to "cheese" (yes, it deserves those quotation marks) for my mother whenever she'd make cheese sauce for steamed veggies. Sometimes it was the only way we kids would eat our veggies ("You want some cauliflower with your cheese sauce?" :laugh: ).

 

“Peter: Oh my god, Brian, there's a message in my Alphabits. It says, 'Oooooo.'

Brian: Peter, those are Cheerios.”

– From Fox TV’s “Family Guy”

 

Tim Oliver

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Velveeta wasn't normally kept in our house growing up. We stuck with colby or what we called rat cheese (cheap cheddar with the red wax rind). However, anytime my sister or I would have friends over to spend the night, which wasn't often as the noise of many girls would drive my father crazy, a block o' Velveeta would be purchased for cheese dip.

As others have described it, it is just Ro-tel and Velveeta, all melted together in orange glory. However, tradition at our house was to make it in my mom's big crock-pot, the one she got when she got married. This way, we hungry little girls could go in and out of the kitchen all night munching on tortilla chips and Ro-tel dip (as it was known).

The best part was that the dip would start to stick to the sides of the crock pot and brown as the level decreased. These hard, brown bits were my favorite part. What was not my favorite part was having to wash the crock-pot after it had warmed cheese dip for something like 16 hours. :raz: Good memories.

Preach not to others what they should eat, but eat as becomes you and be silent. Epicetus

Amanda Newton

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As a riff on the ever-popular Ro-tel dip, a jar or salsa or a can (yes, a CAN) of chili makes a great dip when melted and swirled with Velveeta. Cheezy, melty goodness.

Eat those with a bag of grocery store brand potato chips, or generic "fritos" and you have yourself what we call "whaaat trash naychoes" Serve with cheap beer.

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Although a discussion of Velveeta cheese could be considered a cooking topic, it seems to be more of a food traditions and culture topic.

I quite agree.

Discussing Velveeta as "cheese" arouses nearly as much anger as mentioning Rachael Ray when the topic is "chefs". :shock:

Do you have any Velveeta stories to share?

Somewhere on eGullet, by making deft use of the search engines, you can find my stories about "Velveeta and Psilocybin" and "Jellystone Park".

I'll add another one, more on current topic.

Velveeta was a chief ingredient in the first thing I ever cooked.

When I was about twelve years old my parents started to entrust me with the job of babysitting my brother and sister, (three and six years younger than me, respectively), when they went out to eat.

Although we'd have our dinner before they left, a little later in the evening I'd prepare a snack for my siblings.

My featured dish was a small square of Velveeta, placed on a Saltine cracker, and grilled under the broiler until the cheese was just melted and the cracker toasted around the edges. The three of us could devour several dozen of these! :biggrin:

Although I haven't made any in over two score years, my sister still mentions them occasionally. :rolleyes:

SB (will have to surprise her with a batch some time? :wink: )

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Mmmm....Velveeta....Wasn't that the stuff they gave Socrates to consume in order to shut him up?

Yes, Rogov, exactly. And it has worked the same miracle with almost every philosopher since, until we reached the postmodernists.

My mother was the fisher in my family. She baited her hook for sturgeon with chunks of Velveeta because it kept its shape and color through thick and thin. Our family never ate the stuff, it was only kept around for my moms fishing trips. No way am I gonna *eat* Velveeta but it has a soft spot in my heart if not in my tummy.  :raz:

So Velveeta has the potential to bring me caviar if I bait a hook with it? :wink:

Makes me wonder, your story, if subbing V for mozz would work in those deep-fried stick things.

Might have to freeze it first, though.

But then again I wonder if the stuff freezes. :biggrin:

Somewhere on eGullet, by making deft use of the search engines, you can find my stories about "Velveeta and Psilocybin" and "Jellystone Park". 

I tried but obviously am not usefully deft, SB.

Did you grow psilocybin on Velveeta then take a trip with the Flintstones somewhere?

...................................

Sounds like that Rotel and Velveeta dip is the clear winner in recipe category so far. I'll have to try it.

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Hmmm. The Velveeta as fish bait has serious potential. Maybe I should pick up a little box of it?

But, never, ever do what a friend does. Do not grind up velveeta and a can of spam, smear on squishy burger bun halves and broil. Cowboy sandwiches, a favorite of their families. Our family of five could not make it through a half of one, and their dog viewed it as a ball to kick around. But, velveeta stirs of many memories for many people. Part of parcel of childhood for many.

Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"
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I also used Velveeta to make cheese grits according to a specified recipe for a group dinner. They were freaking fabulous, and nothing McD's et al serve comes close to the wanton inclusion of fat and salt of those grits.

I'd absolutely love that recipe....

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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As others have described it, it is just Ro-tel and Velveeta, all melted together in orange glory. However, tradition at our house was to make it in my mom's big crock-pot, the one she got when she got married. This way, we hungry little girls could go in and out of the kitchen all night munching on tortilla chips and Ro-tel dip (as it was known).

As a riff on the ever-popular Ro-tel dip, a jar or salsa or a can (yes, a CAN) of chili makes a great dip when melted and swirled with Velveeta.  Cheezy, melty goodness.

Eat those with a bag of grocery store brand potato chips, or generic "fritos" and you have yourself what we call "whaaat trash naychoes"  Serve with cheap beer.

Add crumbled sausage to the Velveeta & Ro-tel, and you've got yourself some Deer Lease Dip. Also eaten with Fritos or Tostitos. :wub:

I love haute macaroni & cheese as much as anyone could, but there is something insanely comforting about ye olde Velveeta mac n' cheese as well. There's a certain comforting oozy goodness about it that the haute just doesn't have.

...wine can of their wits the wise beguile, make the sage frolic, and the serious smile. --Alexander Pope

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Somewhere on eGullet, by making deft use of the search engines, you can find my stories about "Velveeta and Psilocybin" and "Jellystone Park". 

I tried but obviously am not usefully deft, SB.

Did you grow psilocybin on Velveeta then take a trip with the Flintstones somewhere?

Here is the Jellystone Park story, but The Velveeta/Psilocybin piece must have been culled when eGullet did their archive cleansing last year?

Let's just say it involved the ingestion of psychedelic mushrooms, a visit to a brightly lit supermarket late at night, purchase of a two pound ingot of Velveeta, and the unveiling of said cheese in the dome light of a mid-70's Mercury Marquis somewhere in the midst of the woods of Northern Minnesota culminating in the raucous laughter of three joke-crazed youth.

The Velveeta was later devoured with some stale hard tack, paired with one of the cheap, popular, fruity wines of the day.

SB (there was a part in there about Nosie's doagies too, I think :cool: )

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Hi,

How did Steven Jenkins miss these finds in his "Cheese Primer"?

Velveeta: Originally it was a "pasteurized process cheese food" and is now a "pasteurized processed cheese". What happened?

Cheese Whiz: "Pasteurized Process cheese spread/sauce" Tastes like it contains both but contains neither.

Tim

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Can someone clarify exactly what Velveeta is? Is it the same as Kraft processed cheese slices, but all on one block and not sliced? I always thought it was like Cheeze Whiz, but the above descriptions don't mesh with this.

I've never seen processed cheese all in one big block, but I'm pretty sure we sell Velveeta in Canada. The only processed cheese I've ever seen has been in the pre-wrapped slices, or the spreadable stuff.

I find it interesting that processed cheeze seems to be about as popular in Canada as it is in the US, but here it always seems to be the Kraft Singles (and once in a while Cheeze Whiz). I've asked my friends, and none of them can ever remember having Velveeta, while in the US it seems to be a pretty cemented part of culture.

Also, what is Rotel?

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I've never seen processed cheese all in one big block, but I'm pretty sure we sell Velveeta in Canada.  The only processed cheese I've ever seen has been in the pre-wrapped slices, or the spreadable stuff.

From: Kraft Canada

"Velveeta se présente en plusieurs formats, dont 250 g, 450 g et 900 g."

SB :biggrin:

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When I was growing up, we only had Velveeta occasionally because, for some reason, it's not cheap. :blink: Well, not cheap enough. But my mom made open-faced Velveeta sandwiches similar to those mentioned above: Sliced Velveeta on white toast, topped with onion salt, then broiled 'til there was a puddle of melted goo inside a skin. I love to eat that still and will buy a block of Velveeta to have it.

I also enjoy the dip, although not with chili - salt overload, and I drink pickle juice from the jar. I prefer it with salsa, as much as it resembles particularly unattractive vomit during the melting process. It is tasty but I think it's one of those things with crack in it; I don't enjoy it that much past a few bites but will keep eating it anyway. I've made it with homemade salsa (don't like canned or jarred salsas much and so more usually have homemade on hand) and it just isn't the same.

I also enjoy it in grilled cheese occasionally but don't really care for it any other way. I remember I would eat slices of it when I was little. I tried that a few months ago and just... no. I also dislike using it for mac and cheese, because I prefer my mac and cheese with lumps of cheese and stringy melty bits rather than a cheese sauce.

Jennie

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Circa 1980 my parents gave me my first microwave oven and right away Velveeta+ Ro-tel became the standard dip in my house. I can't remember ever

"using" the stuff in any other way.

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