14 Cheesy Facts About Velveeta

You can mix it into a casserole, melt it into a dip, squirt it on top of a salad and, apparently, bake it into fudge. No matter how you slice it (or dice it, or nuke it), Velveeta is an iconic brand, and a testament to the wondrous power of American food processing. Here, we take a look at the company’s early days, its evolution, and the real driving force behind Ro-Tel dip.

1. IT WAS INVENTED TO SALVAGE BROKEN CHEESE WHEELS.

Back in the early 1900s, New York’s Monroe Cheese Company was one of the country’s most successful cheese makers. It had a big problem, however: Many of the Swiss cheese wheels that came out of its Pennsylvania factory were broken or misshapen. So the company sent some of its discarded product to in-house cheese wiz Emil Frey, a Swiss immigrant who’d recently invented Liederkranz, a popular American take on Limburger cheese. Frey tinkered around with the cheese pieces on his home stove, and eventually found that by adding byproducts like whey back into the cheese, he could create a smooth, pliable food product. When melted, it had a velvety consistency to it, so Frey called it Velveeta.

2. KRAFT BOUGHT THE COMPANY AND MADE SOME TWEAKS.

For four years, Velveeta operated independently out of Monroe, N.Y., until Kraft purchased it in 1927. Kraft, which had made its own strides in processed cheese technology, wanted another weapon to add to its arsenal, and the company tinkered with Frey’s formula in-house while using the Swiss inventor’s name in marketing materials. 

3. IT WAS ORIGINALLY MARKETED AS A HEALTHY PRODUCT.

Adding whey back into the mixture, the company reasoned, bumped up Velveeta’s nutritional value. Check out this TV ad from 1958, which targets "weight-watching moms" and their “youngsters.”

4. IT HAD THE AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION'S STAMP OF APPROVAL.

In 1931, the AMA claimed Velveeta had all the nutritional qualities to promote “firm flesh.” These were the days of doctor-endorsed cigarettes, after all.

5. EARLY RECIPES INCLUDED POURING IT OVER TOASTED PEANUT BUTTER SANDWICHES.

An ad in Better Homes and Gardens, 1953. Jamie, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

The company’s early ads instructed housewives to make a cheese sauce using ½ pound of Velveeta and ¼ cup of milk, then pour it "over toasted sandwiches of peanut butter and pickles." Sounds… delightful.

6. IT WAS HUGE IN GERMANY.

Demand was so high for Velveta, as it was called there, that the company’s plant in Lindenberg could barely keep up once the product was introduced in Germany in 1937

7. KRAFT BEGAN PROMOTING IT AS A DIP TO AVOID INTERNAL COMPETITION.

An ad from 1951. Jamie, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

In the ‘50s, Kraft came out with pre-sliced cheese, which brought it perilously close to competing with the blocks of Velveeta it was instructing shoppers to slice up. So the company put all its advertising heft behind Velveeta as a dip and a sauce.

8. IT'S NOT REALLY CHEESE.

Real cheese used to be part of the product, but these days Velveeta is mainly whey protein concentrate and milk protein concentrate mixed with milk, fat and preservatives—which is not technically cheese by the Food and Drug Administration’s standards. In 2002, the FDA sent the company a warning letter asking them change their labeling from “cheese spread” to “cheese product,” and Kraft complied.

9. PEOPLE LIKE TO MAKE THEIR OWN HOMEMADE VERSIONS.

Apparently you don’t need to be a multinational food conglomerate to make Velveeta. You just need some milk, shredded cheese, salt and gelatin. 

10. IF YOU LOVE RO-TEL DIP, IT'S PROBABLY BECAUSE OF A CALCULATED MARKETING MOVE.

For years, people in the south have been combining cans of Ro-Tel diced tomatoes and chilies with blocks of Velveeta to make a delicious dip. Lyndon and Ladybird Johnson were apparently big fans. But it wasn’t until 2004 that the dish gained any marketing muscle. That’s when food giant ConAgra, which purchased Ro-Tel in 2002, quietly entered into an agreement with competitor Kraft to promote cans of Ro-Tel and Velveeta side-by-side in stores and through advertisements. It was a brilliant move that boosted sales of both brands, which were slumping at the time.

11. REMEMBER CHEESEPOCALYPSE?

Back in January 2014, Kraft announced a shortage of Velveeta due to a recall and transition to a new production facility. The timing couldn’t have been worse, falling just weeks before the Super Bowl. Some people wondered if it was all a publicity stunt, something the company denied. Others proceeded to lose their minds.

12. TURNS OUT THAT WAS A BIG WIN FOR THE COMPANY.

Rather than shrink from the “Cheesepocalype” controversy, Kraft embraced it with straightforward communication and a welcome dose of irony, referring to Velveeta as “our nation’s most precious commodity: Liquid Gold.” They also created a website that tracked the shortage across the country. Fans poured their hearts out on social media, and the buzz proved way more valuable than advertising.

13. CHEFS USE IT.

And celebrities with cooking shows! And there are more of them using it than you’d think. They seem to prefer the sneak-it-in method for a quick, easy flavor boost.

14. THERE'S AN '80S COVER BAND CALLED VELVEETA.

They play all the cheesiest hits of the decade.

You've Been Using Your Can Opener Wrong

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iStock

Opening a can with grace isn't easy. Even if your can opener is sharp enough to get the job done, you often end up with a detached lid floating in your food, forcing you to fish it out and risk getting a nasty cut. Fortunately, it is possible to remove and dispose of your jagged can lid seamlessly, and you don't need to buy a new kitchen gadget to do so: You just need to rethink the way you use the can opener you already have at home.

A tweet that was shared on August 10 demonstrated how simply adjusting the position of your can opener can improve your life in the kitchen. Instead of hinging the can opener on the lip of the can so that the crank faces out to the side, have it face up toward the ceiling. Turn the knob like you normally would, and then once you've completed a full rotation, lift the opener away from the can. Thanks to that extra strip of metal the lid should still be attached to the can opener. Now you can move it over to the trash bin without getting your hands dirty.

The original Tweet has since been deleted, but YouTuber Calvin Zolinas recreated the hack in the video below. After seeing how it's done you can dig a can out of your pantry and try out the trick for yourself at home.

Plenty of common kitchen problems—like fast-wilting greens and slow-ripening avocados—can be solved with some simple hacks. Check out this list for more culinary tips.

The Mystery of the Stinky Dairy Queen in Calgary Has Just Been Solved

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iStock

Walking into an ice cream parlor is supposed to be one of the most pleasant sensory experiences you can have, with the assortment of frozen treats giving off a very enticing aroma. This is particularly true of the Dairy Queen franchise, which offers signature items like Blizzards at hundreds of locations throughout the U.S. and Canada.

Unfortunately, one location in Calgary has been having trouble satisfying patrons who walk in expecting the scent of vanilla. This Dairy Queen has smelled like the explosive flatulence of someone who has just eaten rotten eggs. And someone finally found out why.

Sujad Bandali told CBC News that the mystery odor had been plaguing his location since it opened in January 2015. At first he was so concerned it might be something dangerous—like a gas leak—that he called utility workers and area firefighters to check for a burst utility supply pipe. He also had the building examined for carbon monoxide, which is normally odorless but may be accompanied by a foul smell as a result of incomplete combustion [PDF]. He made sure there wasn’t a sewage problem.

Nothing was found. His place just stunk.

Curiously, not everyone could detect it. Bandali said half his staff wasn’t bothered by it, while some customers exited as soon as they caught a whiff. Bandali posted a warning on his front door alerting people to the smell awaiting them upon entering. Predictably, this was bad for business.

A desperate Bandali offered a free Blizzard once a week for a year to anyone who could tell him where the smell was coming from, a move that was widely publicized. Help finally arrived Wednesday when the local gas company, ATCO, arrived for yet another inspection. (Presumably, they came at Bandali's request, not solely because of the Blizzard offer.) This time, a worker performed a “dead check,” turning off all the gas appliances in the building and then looking to see if the gas meter was still running. If it was, that would indicate a gas leak. It was running. A small leak was coming from the ceiling. With the repair made, the store finally smells of the welcoming aroma given off by their Peanut Buster Parfait inventory.

Bandali told CBC News that he was relieved that the source of the franchise’s fumes was finally located. This discovery, he said, proved that “I was not losing my mind.”

[h/t Munchies]

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