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As American as Processed Cheese

Lofthouse cookie

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.

As a result, items I might normally veto turned up in the cupboard and fridge. The first being Lofthouse cookies. I have extolled their virtues before. I don’t know what the hell they put in these cake like treats (ok, I did see red flag partially hydrogenated oil on the ingredient list) to make them so irresistible.

Lofthouse container
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.

I try not to eat more than one sweet thing a week so this tray of Lofthouse cookies is big trouble. If I were an eating disordered freak I would either scarf the whole batch then puke or toss the whole container in the trash before I could get any ideas. But I neither purge nor throw away perfectly good food so I’m going to have to learn to get along with the Lofthouses as long as they’re sharing living space with me.

White american cheese

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.

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