Posts Tagged ‘processed foods’

Entenmann’s Donuts, a box of oldie-but-goody chocolate-covered donuts our family recently enjoyed, photo © 2009 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.

Entenmann’s Donuts
with their plastic-like frosting
are they real or fake?

yum…plastic donuts are good, photo ©
2009 by ybonesy. All rights reserved

Postscript: For those of you in Albuquerque, you can get Entenmann’s Donuts in chocolate, powdered sugar, or glazed at Keller’s Farm Stores.

-related to posts WRITING TOPIC — VELVEETA CHEESE and haiku 2 (one-a-day).

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Velveeta drizzled over broccoli, slathered over corn tortilla chips, melted inside a loaf of homemade bread with pimentos and mayo and peppers, an open-loaf dip. I don’t remember specific Velveeta recipes as a kid. But I remember liking Velveeta on open-faced toast. Comfort food. Like buttery mashed potatoes, real vanilla milk shakes, homemade pizzas, macaroni and cheese, baked beans. These are comfort foods. High calorie, low cost, always warm to the touch.

It’s the smearability of Velveeta that makes it a hit. The easy way you can take the blade of a stainless steel knife and spread the cheese over a slice of whole wheat without ripping or shredding the bread into little pieces that leave holes that drip down on to your lap or chin. Are you one of those people who prefers using a napkin bib? I know adults who do this at home, not in public. They are prone to drips and spatters; sometimes large-breasted women seem to catch food on their shelves. Privately we laugh about it. Publicly, that kind of clumsiness can lead to embarrassment.

I’ve been thinking about Nikki Giovanni, the way she is so comfortable in her own skin. She’s been to the school of hard knocks, does not care what others think of what she writes, or shares from the heart. Not overt scare tactics or stun-gun sentences that some writers use to wake their readers up. Instead, the honest rhetoric that shoots from the heart. That kind of honesty can shock people, leave them not knowing what to say. Or thinking, should she really have said that on public radio? It doesn’t matter. She is willing to bear the consequences of her honesty.

There’s a certain comfort level one needs to get to in order not to care what people think or how they will judge. There is a confidence in their writing, with their presence in the smaller pecking order of their personal families, and the larger pecking order, sometimes ruthless, that comprises the rest of the world. Is it okay to say you love Velveeta?

Childhood foods, guilty pleasures. Why have foods like that become the blunt of people’s jokes. Especially those who pride themselves on eating “healthy” or only “whole foods,” food snobs. People get to make choices about how they eat, just as they do about what they say or write. To judge others based on what they eat, I don’t think so. Keep the focus on my own bare cupboards.

I like Velveeta and cinnamon toast and Kool-Aid. I don’t really care who knows it. I made cinnamon toast just last week. It’s another comfort food. When I was a child there was a container filled with cinnamon, swirled in sugar, wound and stirred into a brown concoction ready to be shaken into the mouth of a melted butter gob on top of white Wonder bread. These days, I eat whole wheat because I like the taste better.

I become the most food conscious when I am trying to lose weight. It’s true, processed foods are high calorie, not good for the heart. And the fried foods that I love can be deadly. But you can eat anything if you watch the calories. Again, who am I to judge others? There is a woman at work that most know to be the town gossip. Anything you tell her will make the rounds. It’s common knowledge, something everyone accepts about her. I watch what I say. Yet I like her. She’s abrasive, direct, honest, loves Velveeta cheese and smokes a pack of cigarettes a day.

And whenever people want to know what’s going on in another part of the company, they always go to her to ferret out what she has heard. If you solicit information from the town gossip when it’s convenient for you, no need to judge her for the rest. All this, from a box of Velveeta cheese.

-related to Topic post: WRITING TOPIC — VELVEETA CHEESE

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The other day I was craving one of my favorite holiday appetizers: chile con queso (recipe provided at the end of this post). I went to the grocery store in search of the main ingredient, Kraft Velveeta®. Up and down the cheese aisle I went, looking among the cheddars and Colbys.

I found the Kraft slices close to bologna (although no Velveeta loaf). I searched the string cheese, the kosher dills (the kind that need to be refrigerated), the lunch meats. Back and forth I went, past the cream cheeses, sour creams, and French dips. No where could I find the big boxes of Velveeta.

And so I did the only thing I could do. I sent a text message to my sister.

I cant find velveeta at albertsons

Look by the box macaroni and cheeses area

Box macaroni and cheese?? Don’t they keep Velveeta with the other cheeses, in the refrigerated section?

I started toward the pasta and as I wheeled around the corner, there they were. Boxes and boxes of Velveeta, stacked at the end of the aisle like cases of water bottles. I picked one up, turned it over in my hands. What exactly is Velveeta anyway??


Growing up in our house, there was almost always a loaf of Velveeta in process. We kept it in its original box, the open end swaddled as tightly as possible to keep the remaining cheese from drying out. In addition to using it for chile con queso, we always made grilled cheese sandwiches out of the stuff. It melted so well!

In fact, according to the SQUIDOO Food & Cooking blog post Velveeta…Unwrapped, this is the whole reason Velveeta exists.

Simply put, Velveeta melts nicely. I don’t think anyone outside of Kraft knows exactly why, but several possibilities have been suggested. Among them, differences in protein structure, oil content, and a Velveeta block’s own desire to please.

Velveeta seemed to be a central figure in a growing trend of households using processed foods. Shake ‘n Bake, SpaghettiOs, Spam, Hamburger Helper, Rice-a-roni—all made occasional appearances in our house. (Dad especially liked fried Spam sandwiches.) Given that our usual fare was beans and chile, enchiladas, tacos, and tortillas, I kind of liked opening the refrigerator and seeing that loaf of orangeish congealed cheese. It made me feel more like everyone else.

According to the Kraft Velveeta official history site, Kraft introduced Velveeta in 1928, “after several years of research on the nutritive value of whey—a by-product of cheese making.” In 1950, the one-pound “loaf” was introduced to the market, and in 1962, the distinctive oval logo that is still used today. A reduced-calorie “light” version of the cheese came out in 1991, and in 2006, Pepper Jack flavor hit the stores.

Velveeta Unwrapped explains that Velveeta is a “pasteurized processed cheese food.” Pasteurized process cheese foods contain one or more cheeses (which have to make up at least 51% of the total weight), with added dry milk, whey solids, or anhydrous milkfat. The mixture is heated with an emulsifier such as sodium or potassium phosphate. Color and flavoring are added, and then it’s poured into molds to congeal.
Mmmm. Tasty.


And the thing is, it is tasty. It’s creamy and gooey. Slightly sweet. Cheesy, yes, but life would be missing something if Velveeta didn’t exist.

Which is why Velveeta is our Writing Topic.

Think about a time when you remembered Velveeta cheese, um, food. Maybe it wasn’t a specific instance with the cheese, um, food itself, but rather, a time. When life was simpler, processed foods were few and far between, and the idea of a cheese that melted was kind of magical.

Then write for 15 minutes. No stopping, no crossing out. Just write.

A few other helpful links

  • Velveeta Unwrapped is an excellent source on Velveeta. Make sure to see the definitions for “cheese food,” “cheese spread,” and “cheese product,” along with a Flickr Velveeta Cheese Gallery and a recipe for Velveeta Fudge. Also check out the poll that lets readers say whether they lose just a smidge of respect for a person who is discovered to eat Velveeta.
  • 1950s foods: For foods and brands that were popular in the 1950s
  • 1960s foods
  • 1970s foods

Chile con Queso

This recipe comes from my Aunt Erma. It’s a little more involved than another approach, which is to throw a loaf of Velveeta and a jar of salsa into a crock pot and let it all melt. I prefer Aunt Erma’s queso.

You’ll need:

  • A pad of butter
  • One or two diced onions
  • 2 cloves chopped garlic
  • A small can of hot chile or jalapeños
  • A small can of peeled tomatoes
  • A large can of evaporated milk, unsweetened
  • A pound of Velveeta

Melt the butter on medium heat in a sauce pan, add the onions and garlic, cook for a couple of minutes. Add the chile, tomatoes, and Velveeta. You’ll want to cut the cheese into small pieces so that it melts more easily. Add the evaporated milk.

As the cheese melts, stir the ingredients together. The mixture might be soupy at first, but don’t worry—it will thicken as it cools. Don’t let the mixture boil or the cheese might curdle. If making in a crock pot, make sure you keep it on low.

Once the Velveeta is melted and the ingredients blended, the chile con queso is ready. Serve in bowls as a hot dip with tortilla chips. You can also use it to make nachos.

This recipe makes enough for a large party.

(Oh, and if you’re a Velveeta snob, try this version of the recipe: Hold-the-Velveeta Queso.)

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