Process Cheese and Recherché Wines

Daisy Miller at a European Ball?

At a high-toned and prescient wine tasting held in 1948 in Baltimore as discussed in my previous post, Borden Creamery contributed cheese, one of which was a process type, Vera-Sharp. You see it below in a period ad from Life Magazine.

Borden’s extensively advertised processed cheese from the 1940s through the ’60s. The company finally was bought out by a venture capitalist firm in New York. The dairy business, as the other food businesses of Borden (pasta was an important line), were sold off.

Today, two consumer foods companies, in Texas and Mexico, make Borden cheese under license but otherwise are not connected to the original business.

It’s a sign of the longevity of beloved consumer trade marks that “Elsie the contented cow” still has currency in popular culture 60 years after the heyday.

And so, you can still buy Borden cheese slices and a range of other Borden-brand cheese products. But no spreads from what I can tell, it’s all chunks, slices, singles, strings. Oh, shreds too.

Most of the current line seems to be 100% real cheese but some is the emulsified type that first emerged in the early 1900s, working a revolution in food technology.

At the 1948 tasting most cheese served was real cheese made or distributed by Borden but Vera-Sharp and, I’d think the Wej-Cut, a spreadable cream cheese, were likely process-type.

Why were the last two included? I suspect Borden sponsored the cheese table and wanted them there. Or maybe the committee handling the tasting just liked them. We should consider too that cheese selection in regional American centres was probably not munificent before the 1980s, or not at any rate shortly after WW II.

Processed cheese, of which there are delphic sub-categories, was and remains popular in America and other English-speaking countries. You might say it’s non-U, not very Nancy Mitford. Then too the price is reasonable and lots of people like it, including Beeretseq.

In our fridge, Kraft is the brand usually, or a house brand occasionally. I preferred when the slices were not individually wrapped – I’ve since learned this type is called “stacked”. But I can’t find that kind anymore.* There was a pimento-flecked type we used to get, but all gone with the wind, I think.

There was a white stacked kind, too, Swiss-type – distantly. My home abjured this, we liked a pineapple-flavoured cream cheese instead.

It’s incorrect in sophisticated food circles to admit such likes. The constructs of local, organic, natural, non-GMO, are more palatable, spiritually if not always literally. The old lure of Arcadia, the vision of engaging with primal, unspoiled, nature, is powerful.

I like the principle but don’t take it too far. Levels of sodium and sugar do concern me in processed foods, but on the whole I believe the industry scientists for what is safe to eat. Anyway, would real cheese have been better in each case with the wines than Wej-Cut? I don’t know, I wasn’t there, but wish I had been! Maybe the process cheese suited the American wines and the real cheese, the French and German ones. That would be a pleasing binary.

Note re image: image above was extracted from the Life Magazine ad linked in the text. All intellectual property therein or thereto belongs solely to the lawful owner or authorized user, as applicable. Image is included for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.

*Note added February 8, 2020: Some times after I wrote the above, I discovered Kraft Real Cheddar, a stacked yellow-type cheese that is similar to the stacked process cheese I recall from the 1960s, except it comes only in an oblong, double-stack. I’m not sure how exactly how this is made but believe it is a process-type with some real cheddar added for extra taste. It’s very good, we think.