Velveeta Cheesepocalypse Causes Queso Contemplation

velveeta1.jpg
Photo courtesy Velveeta
Everyone knows the Egyptians invented queso.
When you hear the word "queso," what do you picture?

If you live anywhere outside of South Texas, you probably see cheese, possibly a Mexican cheese like queso fresco or cotija.

If you grew up with Tex-Mex in your life like I did, you hear queso and think of a warm, soothing bowl of melted yellow cheese with chunks of red and green peppers

Of course, the shorthand queso actually refers to chile con queso, a Tex-Mex staple that doesn't contain that much cheese if it's made properly. And by "made properly," I mean with a log of Velveeta and a can of Ro*Tel.

img_2693_512.jpg
Photo courtesy Ro*Tel
Velveeta + Ro*Tel = Simple perfection
Kraft Foods, the makers of Velveeta, admitted to Advertising Age magazine on Tuesday that consumers may have difficulty finding Velveeta on shelves due to its popularity during football season. This came after Ad Age received reports of shortages at grocery stores in New York and reached out to the company. In spite of one employee explaining that the store wasn't expecting any more shipments until February, spokespeople for Kraft declined to point to any specific issues, leaving the explanation at "a combination of factors."

When I learned this, I immediately panicked, which is exactly what Kraft Foods is hoping we don't do. I can't help it though. Unlike football fans readying for the Superbowl in New Jersey by making cheese dip and wings and other heart attack-inducing seasonal snacks, I eat queso year-round. It's not a special-occasion food for me. I was born in south Texas. Queso is a staple of my diet. And it must be made with Velveeta.

Since news broke of the possible shortage, two big things have happened. First, the Twitterverse coined the term "Cheesepocalypse" (preceded by a hashtag, of course), and second, websites began to aggregate recipes for alternatives to queso or even (gasp) queso made without Velveeta. As far as I'm concerned, aside from the Spanish word for cheese, there is only one kind of queso.

Non-natives don't always understand this distinction. I recall the confused looks on my friends' faces when, in college in Missouri, I announced I was bringing queso to a party.

"What kind of queso?" someone asked.

"What do you mean, what kind of queso? Velveeta and Ro*Tel. Or maybe off-brand peppers if I can't find Ro*Tel here. I guess it doesn't have to be Ro*Tel. Or I could make white queso if you want, but I prefer the regular kind."

"Huh?"

This story continues on the next page.


Advertisement

My Voice Nation Help
15 comments
gruntledpainter
gruntledpainter

Was disappointed that this article was only three pages. Is there a book deal in the works Kaitlin, and where can I pre-order? 


In Queso,


Peter

Htown
Htown

Velveeta is SHIT.

paval
paval topcommenter

I have made previously the assumption that all the news that the world is running out of Velveeta were fabricated by Kraft in order to push sales of an item that probably sells less now than it has ever before. Why else would the 32oz size be available in plenty but not the smaller sizes. Kraft probably realized that the people are starting to downsize if not cut out at all their "fantastic cheese product" and hence want to create a hype similar to the one experienced due to Sriracha shortages (which seem more legit, since the factory had to shut down by court orders) or the Hostess brands products disappearing (also legit since the company went bankrupt due to eating habits finally changing to the better in the US).


I have always taken issue with the queso Texans are so fond of. For once because it stupidizes the Spanish level of the users, similar to a "mucho cerveza" or "Cinco de Mayo" as Mexican independence Day celebration. Cultural understanding is not done through less understanding of the other culture but through approaching and learning from it. And somewhere I read that learning a second language "properly" makes people more intelligent. 

But I also abhor queso for what it is made of. And here I have to say, with all due respect to the author, who has grown up eating this terrible food, the fact that something was done in one way for ever, does not necessarily make it right. Evolution comes through learning from ones misconceptions and changing them. And as good as queso may taste to an undeveloped palate, it is about the unhealthiest dip out there and represents about the most destroying dish for anyone who supports, praises and believes in artisan, local and natural homemade food. 

Rotel Tomatoes are canned tomatoes produced by ConAgra (same producer of PAM, Hunts, Chef Boyardee and other non-gourmet food brands). They contain Calcium Chloride, a salt used by the food mega-industry to avoid rising the Sodium content (which people react sensitive to) without using the advantages salt provides to taste (so a cheaper and more marketable form of salting). Rotel also adds natural flavor to the mix (this normally means that there is not enough of their name giving ingredient, chilis or tomatoes, and they have to enhance the mouth feel by adding flavors. A natural flavor for strawberries is made out of wood shavings, a natural flavor for coffee syrups is made from a beavers anal gland, so with that precedents, one can imagine that the natural flavor going into a tomato can is coming from anything else but tomatoes or chilies).

Velveeta is produced by Kraft, worlds number 2 in food products and not essentially a local, natural or artisan company, but an exploiter of pretty much any country that produces the raw materials for its food production. 

The last time I checked Velveeta did not even contain cheese but Hydrolized Soy Protein. I was surprised to discover that the first ingredient is Milk nowadays. (As you would expect for a cheese. But the last time I checked FDA had just forbidden Kraft to call Velveeta a cheese and urged them to use the term "cheese like product". very difficult term to marketeer though, hence the possible reformulation to make it more cheesey instead of cheese-like. This also shows that if the consumers seem to care even a food giant like Kraft will change.)

Velveeta also contains Food Starch (a filler to use less of the real ingredients, increasing profits), Corn Syrup (sugar made from cheap GMO corn), Maltodextrin (another sugar produced from most likely corn starch), Apocarotenal (a possible carcinogen) and other binomials, some cuestionable, some not at all.

I am far from a food nazi and all and only natural foods advocate, but for the sake of a balanced journalistic article I would have wished or hoped for a less ad style article for multinational food companies and more of a description of traditional tex-mex queso and some alternatives made from real cheeses and real tomatoes and chilies. 




  

ESandler
ESandler

At college, during the dark, frigid nights of January, my girlfriend and I had a special Texas ritual. I would buy two cases of Velveeta from a grocer friend, pop them into my VW and speed off to her old Victorian house, where I'd unload them, trembling with anticipation. We'd rush the cases upstairs to a bathroom whose focal point was an old white claw-foot bathtub. Placing the bunson burners from Chemistry class beneath the tub, we'd melt all the cheese so it was just right....and at exactly midnight we'd climb in together, descending into the warm yellow goo. We'd sit and chat and nibble on chips for hours, dipping them until our 'bathwater' was nearly gone. Some of the best memories of my life!


Ghibelline
Ghibelline

Intesting stuff, think I'll make some this weekend, I've got a log that's been sitting next to the Duraflames in my kitchen.


I was intriqued to find a chili recipe that called for El Pato tomotoes...huh?...I found some at Randall's and they seem the same as RoTel.

mrcat
mrcat

@pavalRading your post made me tired. I'm going to have a queso snack and a nap.

Nate
Nate

@paval  Lighten up Francis.  Or move back to East Germany.  Either way, STFU.

KaitlinS
KaitlinS topcommenter

@paval It's not intended to be an ad-style article, but a personal essay in which I reflect on my own opinion. And that just happens to be that Velveeta is awesome. Don't care if it's not actually cheese or where it comes from. Sorry.

gruntledpainter
gruntledpainter

@ESandler trying this now. Do you think it would work in a shower as well? Nevermind, we shall see momentarily.

gruntledpainter
gruntledpainter

@Ghibelline It's all about the rotel. Though I prefer to add a cup of diced jalapenos for maximum regrettage later in the evening (or morning, as it were)

KaitlinS
KaitlinS topcommenter

@Ghibelline I've found a lot of imitation Ro*Tel. It's not as prevalent at grocery stores in the Midwest, so when I was living there, I'd often get the store brand "diced tomatoes and chiles." It doesn't make that much difference. The Velveeta is the important part. Ro*Tel just makes it feel more legit.

Now Trending

From the Vault

 

Loading...