Originally Published: January 27, 2014 6 a.m.
Dear Readers, we may have big problems! A Velveeta cheese shortage! The Cheesepocalypse is coming and just when we were all ready to do some serious Super Bowl dipping! No creamy, cheesy bowls of liquid gold to scoop our chips into while watching the Big Game! Horror of horrors ... stock up now because when the news gets out, the stampede to the Velveeta aisles in grocery stores will be heard around town as the "cheese riot." Oh yea, it could get ugly.
A Kraft Foods representative was quoted as saying, "We are not sure why it happened, but we will definitely not have enough Velveeta by the end of January." Once the report went viral, rumor has it that college students in dorms were the first to buy the "golden bars" by the dozens. Easy to microwave, tasty to eat with macaroni, Velveeta has been a college food staple for many years. Then the Super Bowl party planners went and started buying cases of Velveeta and there you have it - not enough for the rest of us to enjoy!
I have to admit, I was in a Wal-Mart and stumbled across a display of chips, dips and a few boxes of Velveeta. Not sure what came over me, I picked up a two pounder and carefully hid it in my cart as I stealthily walked to the check-out. Safely home, I was holding the box of cheese (or whatever it is), wondering what to do with it when my husband, Doug, asked what I had in my hand. When I explained that there was a Velveeta shortage and I bought a box, he looked at me in disbelief! "You fell for the old shortage story again," he said laughing. Hey, what's so funny?
Okay, I do recall about a year ago there was going to be a bacon shortage. It was a world-wide panic there for a few weeks and I did go out and buy 10 pounds, since bacon comes in skinny packages that freeze well. And I know when Twinkies were going to be "gone for good" I bought a few boxes, only to show my grandchildren what they were as a historical lesson. And I confess I know nothing much about Velveeta and have never bought a box in over 20 years, but a "shortage" was a rather compelling reason to pick one up.
So my husband is unafraid of "shortages" but I pointed out to him the great gas shortage of 1978. That's when we lived in California and could buy gasoline for our cars only on even or odd days (depending on our license plate numbers). People would be lined up at the pumps for hours, fist fights broke out and employers had to let workers off early to "gas up." Shortages are not pretty! Good, kind people will do all manner of despicable acts in order to not be "left out" when there is a situation that requires rationing. Just last year alone, more people were picked up for stealing bacon (one lady routinely hid it in her pants at the local grocery store) than the previous 10 years combined. And in a college town in Ohio, two girls got into a violent shoving match over the last box of Velveeta that each was trying to buy. Yikes! Things can turn nasty when we are "running low."
The genius creator of Velveeta was a man named Emil Frey, a Swiss cheese-maker who moved to New York from Switzerland in the 1880s. Working at a cheese factory, Frey was given the job of finding out what to do with all the leftover bits that came from broken wheels of Swiss cheese. Frey discovered that by adding whey (a by-product of cheese-making which is the liquid released from curds} to the leftover Swiss, he could create "something special." He "shared" his secret with a man named Caleb Hommel, who then seems to get most of the credit for this "breakthrough in cheese history." Calling it Velveeta, the "liquid gold" was introduced to America in 1923 and we have never looked back. No need to refrigerate! Melts like a dream! Nutritious (not so sure) and oh, so delicious, a new American "standard" in snacking and sandwich making was born. Today, Americans spend $500 million a year on those golden bars!
I told a friend of mine that I bought a box of Velveeta and she acted as though I had committed a crime. Of course, she is a health nut and says Velveeta is not cheese but some emulsifying salts and orange chemicals. And I have a daughter who thinks that anything "processed" is made by the devil and will lead to an instant heart attack or worse. Oh, and I have a colleague who "juices" every morning with kale (gross) and other vegetables and thinks Velveeta should be "banned from all grocery shelves."
Well, I say we could use a little Velveeta. What's wrong with something that tastes so yummy (I did sample my new found treat), can last so long, melts so smoothly and dips so perfectly?
Dear Readers, rush out now before it is too late to get your box of gold. Do not tell your foodie friends (or doctor). Forget about an elegant cheeseboard with aged cheddar, stilton and fruit surrounded by expensive little crackers. Throw out the celery and kale for the javelinas! Get out a cheap microwave safe bowl, a bag of chips and dip away. Laugh at those who criticize, while you, my friend, take snacking to a new level. This Super Bowl Sunday, do something really cheesy. But, hurry, time is running out like the playing clock of a football game. Velveeta? Score! Chips? Touchdown!
Judy Bluhm is a writer and a local realtor who lives in Skull Valley. Have a comment or a story? Email Judy at firstname.lastname@example.org.