Process Cheese at a Recherché Wine Tasting

Daisy Miller At a European Ball

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

Borden extensively advertised its process cheeses 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 dairy/consumer foods companies in Texas and Mexico make the Borden cheese line under license rights  but otherwise are not connected to the original enterprise.

It is a sign of the longevity of beloved consumer trade marks that Elsie the contented cow still has good recognition 60 years after her 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 which first emerged in the early 1900s. It was a revolution in food technology.

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

Why were these last two included? I suspect Borden sponsored the cheese table and wanted them there. Or maybe the committee organizing the tasting just liked them. We should consider too that the choice of cheese in the early post-war years in regional American centres was probably not munificent.

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

We always have some in our house, Kraft is the brand. I preferred when you could get the slices not individually wrapped – I’ve since learned this type is called “stacked”. But I can’t find that kind now. The pimento-flecked kind was groovy in my youth, I’ll tell ya.

There was a white stacked kind too, Swiss-style it was (distantly). My home abjured this, we liked a pineapple-flavoured cream cheese instead.

It’s incorrect politically in food discourse to admit such likes. The constructs of local, organic, fresh, non-GMO, are much more palatable, metaphorically if not always literally. It’s the old lure of Arcadia, the vision of eating something primal, unspoiled, pristine, and tasty to the max.

Friends of mine in the food industry tell me much of the real food posture is bunk. They say industrially-produced, mass-marketed foods are in essence no worse and sometimes taste better than the socially approved versions.

I don’t like to take that too far – levels of sodium and sugar do concern me in processed foods – but on the whole I believe the industry scientists. They share, you might say, a secret of modern food production and merchandising.

Of the French food she rated as meretricious served in a trendy 1960s London bistro, Elizabeth David wrote, “People like secrets. They shall have them”. I adopt her point in the present context although I’m not sure she would have approved. Madam.

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.





Leave a Comment