As American as Processed Cheese
Normally, I enjoy a New Jersey grocery shopping excursion (I’m still trying to muster interest in the brand new Trader Joe’s walking distance from my apt.) but this weekend I was too preoccupied to tag along with James.
They’re unusually soft and create a satisfying substantial feeling on your teeth when you bite down. Coupled with a thick swatch of ultra-sugary frosting, it’s the perfect sugar cookie. The only disconcerting aspect is why in September they’re selling a version with springy yellow icing and perky sprinkles. I would’ve imagined oranges, browns or blacks more seasonally appropriate.
Later, I discovered a plastic-wrapped Styrofoam tray of sliced white American cheese. I’ve never liked those shiny, completely unnatural non-melting orange squares that you can sometimes pick up for 99-cents a pack at fine stores like C Town. This form of processed cheese is thicker and more hefty in texture like the Kraft thick singles.
I love processed cheese. I do. I’d never buy it (my own contribution to the crisper drawer is a raw milk Abbaye St Mere) but I can’t resist its salty, creamy charms. I prefer it to a mainstream cheddar (real Cheddars—I’ve actually been to Cheddar, well driven past the town—are a totally different beast) even the Tillamook I grew up with.
In grade school, kids would take turns helping out with lunch service. I can’t even remember if this was voluntary or not, I think you got free lunch in exchange but it wasn’t a low-income program. For me, the best part was sneaking into the walk-in fridge and furtively pinching a mouthful of grated orange cheese stored in giant rectangular bins on the shelves.
I didn’t outgrow my passion for fake cheese either. In high school, my friend Tara had what I guess you could call government cheese in her fridge, and I know that on at least one occasion I sampled some. Maybe it was gauche, eating a family’s free food, but it was that good.
Thankfully, I’ve never developed a taste for Kool Aid, bologna or Miracle Whip. You have to draw the line someplace. We do have a bag of those individual serving ice creams with little wooden paddles in the freezer, though.
And apparently these types of “cheaper high-margin” products are in. They’re being touted as wallet-friendly according to an article in today’s Wall Street Journal (subscription required). Lower end rather than premium brands—Banquet frozen dinners, Campbell’s condensed soup and yes, Kool-Aid—are all getting a marketing push. Say goodbye to Pringles Select.