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Velveeta Cheesy Skillets

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American food, ladies and gentlemen. So tasty I want to puke.

I think I’d rather have this recipe for possum and taters.

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  • greylocks

    Trust me. You’d rather have the Velveeta.

    • Have you eaten possum? Is this what you are saying?

      • DrDick

        I have and it is really nasty. Raccon on the other hand is actually pretty good.

        • Hmmm…maybe it wasn’t basted enough in its own possum juice?

          • DrDick

            To put this in perspective, I like tripes and properly prepared chitlins, as well as a wide range of other organ meats. Just saying.

            • Incontinentia Buttocks

              The early ’60s edition of The Joy of Cooking had a recipe for possum that involved capturing it live and feeding it on a diet of cornmeal for a month to make it taste better when you finally killed it.

              Maybe your possum just wasn’t properly cornfed, DrDick!

              • Wow. That kind of blows my mind.

                • Murc

                  Why so?

                  It’s no different than feeding cows grass (rather than corn) to improve the flavor of their beef before slaughter. Why WOULDN’T you do this?

                • Incontinentia Buttocks

                  Thanks to the wonder of teh Interwebs, here it is (in fact, you only have to feed it for ten days, not a month, and the book recommends “milk and cereals” as its diet).

          • firefall

            Smoked possum is pretty delicious – altho thats southern hemisphere possum, which appears to be a somewhat different species

        • Halloween Jack

          Goddamnit if you don’t stop eating Rascal I will cut you.

      • greylocks

        Yes. I grew up rural and poor and we trapped or shot small animals like opossums, rabbits and squirrels to supplement the diet. If I never eat any of those again, it will be too soon. Also, carp

        I haven’t had it in fifty-plus years so don’t ask me to try to describe the exact taste, but I remember I always felt like I was eating old meat that had started to turn.

        The main reason not to eat wild possum, however, is that they are carrion-eaters (which might explain the old-meat memories, also why possum poop stinks to high heaven). You are much farther up the food chain than with vegans like squirrels and rabbits.

        Have I talked you out of it yet? :)

        As for Velveeta, while I see no reason to eat it plain, it makes a great base for cheese sauces. You’ll usually want to add something tangier to it, like cheddar or parmesan. But it’s been a successful product all these decades for a reason.

        • DrDick

          I always felt like I was eating old meat that had started to turn.

          Exactly! I was trying to think what it tastes like and that pretty well describes it, as well as very gamy, which I do not normally mind (I like squirrel and wild rabbit).

  • freelancer

    What’s the difference between this and any variaton of Hamburger Helper product except this is made by Kraft? I can’t see the outrage, really, but we each have different tastes.

    • Oh, I’m happy to go off on Hamburger Helper too.

      • Murc

        What the hell is wrong with the various permutations of hamburger helper? It’s tasty, of middling nutritional content, and can turn buying five pounds of decent ground beef into a variety of meals that don’t require all that much effort to prepare and cost per-meal really very little AND is a noticeable step above something like, say, a hot pocket, or mac’n cheese.

        As someone who has to be at work for 45 hours a week (paid lunches? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAno) and then in class, that’s pretty valuable to me, and frankly I like the taste enough that even if it weren’t, I’d probably still make them.

        • joel hanes

          What the hell is wrong with … hamburger helper?

          too much salt and trans fat and chemicals

          INGREDIENTS:
          Enriched macaroni (wheat flour, niacin, feffous sulfate, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), corn starch, salt, enriched flour, chili pepper, ricotta cheese (whey, milkfat, lactic acid, salt), sugar, whey, “natural flavor”, monosodium glutamate, citric acid, “spice”, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, color (caramel color, yellow lakes 5%6, yellows 5&6), yeast extract, paprika, monoglycerides, silicon dioxide (anticaking agent), garlic, malic acid, disodium inosinate, soy flour, egg

          • UserGoogol

            Everything is made up of chemicals. Water is a chemical. Of course, salt and trans fats are also chemicals. But saying something has too many chemicals means nothing.

            More concretely, those particular chemicals don’t seem terribly horrible. Going only through the ones with fancy chemical names you have:

            Niacin, ferrous sulfate, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid are vitamins and minerals. And meanwhile, lactic acid, citric acid, and malic acid are found in reasonably significant quantities in natural foods. Monosodium glutamate is MSG, which is naturally occurring but obviously it’s acquired somewhat of a bad reputation. Still, there’s not a ton of evidence that MSG causes the “Chinese food syndrome” that people tend to attribute to it. (Although it does add more sodium.)

            Then you have the monoglycerides, silicon dioxide, and disodium inosinate, which are more unnatural. (Disodium inosinate is a flavoring like MSG, and monoglycerides are used to assist blending of ingredients.) At first glance they seem safe but I suppose I could be persuaded otherwise. But still, most remotely processed foods have a few weird chemicals at the end like that, so it’s not like Hamburger Helper is particularly unique in this regard.

            • greylocks

              Do you know what’s in “caramel color” or “yellow lakes”? Funny how they’re not required to tell you.

              These mystery ingredients often do contain chemicals, especially sulfites, that many people are sensitive to.

              Corn starch and soy flour are usually processed and therefore contaminated with sulfites, but unless the concentrations are fairly high, they don’t have to be listed on the labels.

              • UserGoogol

                Except they did tell me. They didn’t pick those numbers at random. Those are standard names for food dyes, so you can generally look it up like I just did.

                Caramel color, for instance, is literally made out of caramel. Yellow 5 and yellow 6 on the other hand are synthetic chemicals and apparently “lake” refers to a way of processing the dye. It’s not like if they had called yellow 5 Tartrazine that would have been any clearer.

                • greylocks

                  Well, it’s not on the label, and show me the independent, well-designed, properly-controlled studies that say artificial food colorings are safe.

                  And you’re wrong about caramel color. That’s a link to an industry site, BTW, not some new age foodie site.

                • UserGoogol

                  Well, it’s made from caramel in the sense that it’s made from heating sugar. From your link:

                  Caramel Color […] is the dark-brown liquid or solid resulting from the carefully controlled heat treatment of food grade carbohydrate. […] Caramel Color’s most commonly used carbohydrate is High Dextrose Corn Syrup; however invert sugar and sucrose are also starting materials.

                  As far as I’m concerned, if you’re caramelizing sugar, you have caramel. It’s not the same as the caramel you eat as candy, but it’s the same idea. Although I suppose that might not be “literally” made out of caramel.

                  Also, I have no idea whether it’s safe, although the FDA does require a certain amount of testing. But DrDick notes downthread, ordinary food substances can be quite unsafe too, so whatever.

            • joel hanes

              UG :

              Oh, I agree that the “chemicals” listed in that ingredients list are not toxic, that everything is made of chemicals, and that an uninformed aversion to sciency-sounding names is simply know-nothingism. Caramel color is just sugar that’s been heated until it turns dark. And silicon dioxide is just powdered quartz.

              My aversion to the the chemicals in the ingredients list is that I feel that food made simply from fresh traditional ingredients usually tastes better and leaves me feeling better than heavily processed foods.

              For example: the ice cream brands that are made from only milk, cream, sugar, and vanilla taste far better to me than the ones that use guar and xanthan gums (though I know that those plant gums are “natural”). I’ve A/B compared Breyer’s vs. Dreyer’s and IMHO Breyer’s is much the better foodstuff.

            • DrDick

              Just for the record, strychnine, hydrogen cyanide, atropine, scopolamine, and curare are all “naturally occuring” and organic. Neither natural (which includes arsenic, as well) nor organic necessarily means healthy. My objection to added chemicals in my food is that I like to know what I am eating and do not think I should have to rush off to a dictionary to figure it out. That is why I rarely eat processed foods, but cook mostly from scratch. FWIW, I object as much to the excessive added salt, sodium, and sugar, as to the preservatives and others.

            • Njorl

              It isn’t the MSG that causes the runs, it’s the salt. I had trouble with Chinese food until I cut back on the soy sauce. MSG is fine.

              Hamburger Helper is loaded with heaps of salt. One serving contains over 4.5 g of sodium (triple most 4 oz servings of ham). That’s the equivalent of 11.3 g of salt, which is close to 2 teaspoons of salt.

              That’s just nuts.

          • Stag Party Palin

            What UserGoogol said. It might interest you to know that the reason chemists cannot recreate chocolate is that of the approximately 500 identifiable chemical compounds in natural chocolate, many are not legal to be *added* to food. Velveeta, OTOH, is perfectly legal.

            Cocoa beans contain a variety of chemicals, with the primary psychoactive components being theobromine (about 1% of total weight) and caffeine (<.1%). Other chemicals include serotonin, histamine, salsolinol, methyltetrahydroisoquinoline, phenethylamine, telemethylhistamine, spermidine, p-tyramine,3-methyloxytyramine, tryptamine, and spermine. (from Biochemist, Apr/May 1993, p 15, as read from Chocolate, Melting the Myth)

        • greylocks

          I’m pretty sure I could make a reasonable approximation of most varieties of HH in not a whole lot more time than it would take you to do the package mix.

          The problem isn’t time. The problem is people don’t know how to scratch cook quick meals any more, and they don’t keep ingredients in stock to do so.

          • Scott de B.

            Not sure why that is a “problem.” Even back when everyone (or every housewife) knew how to scratch cook quick meals, most of those meals weren’t very good. With packaged meals you know exactly what you’re going to get each time, you can pick a couple you like and don’t have to worry about it turning out different than you expected because the baby was crying so the pasta ended up overdone.

            • kg

              We make scratch versions of HH often I purposely want them to turn out differently each time (different cheeses on hand, noodles, etc)> feature not bug.

            • greylocks

              I can’t account for bad cooks. I guarantee you my HH knockoffs will taste better than the packaged crap.

          • Murc

            Big ups to all the people who said what I wanted to say about ‘chemicals’ while I was asleep, first of all.

            Anyway.

            I know how to scratch cook just fine. I was that guy who took Home Ec, not to hang out with girls, but because he genuinely wanted to know how to cook. When I was an undergrad for the first time and staying up until 4am as a matter of course, I was BAKING instead of hunting for instant ramen.

            I just don’t have the time. Well, scratch that. I do have the time. I just would like to spend it on other things.

            I like me some grilled meats, for example. Now, charcoal grilling produces (to me) a somewhat superior flavor than gas grilling. But I don’t generally feel like spending 45 minutes properly fanning and banking coals to get that nice proper heat when I can just flip the gas on.

            I really, really like ‘half-prepared’ stuff like Hamburger Helper, where you get a mix of prepackaged ingredients for a meat dish or a soup or a gumbo or something and just mix them all together and apply heat and get something that’s vastly more tasty than a Hot Pocket (although make no mistake; I do love me some Hot Pockets) and isn’t a complete nutritional waste of time, without going to a ton of effort I could be expending on work, school, or *cough* raiding.

            One of my friends once commented that cooking was kind of like masturbation. It takes awhile to setup and there are special books to help you, it is very briefly totally awesome, and then its over WAY too quickly and you’re left with a mess that makes you wonder if it was really worth the effort.

        • efgoldman

          When we were engaged and living together, I told the then-future mrs efgoldman that I’d know when it was all over and time to pack my bags when she served Hamburger (or Tuna) helper for dinner.
          34 years later and she never has.
          All to the good, I say.

    • Warren Terra
  • Davis X. Machina

    Maybe I watched too much “All Creatures” at an impressionable stage, but ‘cheesy skillets’ sounds like the lay- or non-scientific name of an equine disease.

    • Furious Jorge

      +1

      • Davis X. Machina

        Aarr, doc, ‘er ‘as got a girt case o’ cheesy skillets.

    • herr doktor bimler

      This comment gave me the Epizootic Sniggers.

      • ajay

        Ah, you mean T. Webster’s Disease.

        Careful, though. It could develop into Farcy. It’s catchin’. And there’s only one cure. And it’s shootin’.

        • herr doktor bimler

          I knew someone here would recognise the Classics.

          • ajay

            Flanders, a depressive neurosis affecting both horse and man, caused by sitting in septic mud for years on end; cure, keep end as dry as possible.

            That and the cartoon of Hitler trying to join the Percheron Club…

            • herr doktor bimler

              All good-hearted riders take the greatest care not to hurt the feelings of the Sensitive Frog in the slightest degree.

  • Malaclypse

    If I had not already seen this, I might be grossed out by Velveeta.

    • I don’t understand the deep fried butter thing. It was debuted at the Texas State Fair, the mecca of deep frying, a couple of years ago. My thing with deep frying is that I wouldn’t eat anything deep fried that I wouldn’t eat not deep fried. And who the hell just takes a bite out of a stick of butter, deep fried or not?

      • UserGoogol

        Apparently the butter completely melts in the fryer, so it’s kinda like fried dough with butter on it, except inside out.

      • Warren Terra

        It was debuted at the Texas State Fair, the mecca of deep frying

        They made news a few years ago with the debut of deep-fried beer, too. I don’t know how either one would taste, but the deep-fried beer was definitely the more amusing.

        • Njorl

          Bottle or can?

      • genjirama

        TV Chef Paula Deen apparently just leaves pats of butter lying around the house for her grandchildren to scarf up….

        http://newyork.grubstreet.com/2011/04/what_paula_deen_has_wrought_a.html

        • greylocks

          Southerners like to get working on the arteriosclerosis at an early age.

      • greylocks

        It’s Texas. You seriously expect a rational explanation?

    • I was looking through my friend’s photos of the Indiana State Fair. There was a billboard for “doughnut burgers”. If I knew how to link to another person’s photo on facebook, I’d do it.

      • Furious Jorge

        In Georgia those are called “Luthers.”

  • That second link is awesome.

    I want to see the word “reverently” worked into more recipes.

  • wengler

    Possum tastes better when you put this on it.

    • DrDick

      Not even bacon helps the flavor of possum.

  • jmack

    Velveeta must have gotten its name from The Velveteen Rabbit;
    it is fake food trying to become real.

  • “Cheese”y is being generous.

  • rea

    My grandmother had a possum casserole recipe that called for Velveeta . . .

    • If this is actually true, I would pay greenbacks for that recipe.

      • rea

        Alas, she’s 40 years gone, and I wouldn’t venture to attempt a re-creation. :(

        • rea

          Although a little googling produces a recipe for possum velveeta nachos here.

          • DrDick

            There are some horrors best left undiscovered.

  • grouchomarxist

    Velveeta is Nature’s perfect food.

  • I’m told possum and sweet potatoes is an incredibly greasy concoction. I’ll never know. I once had a pet possum named Brutus, and it would be like cannibalism to eat one of his kind.

  • Hey, let’s have some solidarity w/ working people here, you snooty foodie elitists!

    To many of us (me) cooking is even duller than eating, even if it were almost as easy/quick to whip something up from scratch that might be as goodtastydosed w/ salt as Cheesy Helper Skillets.

    Would like to see this woman, rather than an excessively sincere blacksmith, doing the adverts. (May not be safe for work or prudes, ‘though very aesthetic.)

    • soullite

      No, it is not just as easy or just as quick. The only way to pretend that it is would be to ignore prep work entirely and to pretend that most Americans have worked as a short-order cook at some time in their lives.

      • DrDick

        I cannot say that grating cheese or chopping onions and garlic, which is most of the prep that goes into those HH concoctions, is all that much work or takes more than a couple of minutes and I have never cooked professionally. When my son was growing up, I used to make homemade versions all the time and they were just as quick and tasted much better (which is the real key here).

        • Malaclypse

          No, the real key is that each serving does not contain 120% or so of the RDA of sodium. Now, that is linked to taste, since the pre-made stuff tastes so crappy that the only way to make it palatable is with all that salt.

        • greylocks

          For quick meals, who needs prep work? Use onion powder or garlic powder and pre-grated cheese. You can also buy minced garlic in a jar, and dehydrated onion flakes.

          Frankly, that’s a lot of what they use in HH and similar products. Even if they start with “fresh” product, the freeze-drying process that turns it into the packaged mix effectively turns into onion flakes, garlic powder, etc…

          Yes, onion power etc. are technically “processed” food, but that stuff’s usually pretty clean. Check labels and don’t buy the cheap crap.

          • DrDick

            True, but I prefer the flavors of the fresh ingredients and shredded cheese is more expensive. Again, it is cheaper and pretty much as easy to make it yourself as to buy packaged, but tastes better and you do not get all the extra salt and other crap.

    • Aardvark Cheeselog

      Depends on what you mean by “scratch.” I always have several kinds of bouillon paste in my fridge, and a half-dozen kinds of seasoning blends in my spice cabinet, because I know that I can add a heaping spoon of the soup base stuff to a pound of cooked ground beast, a few handfuls of chopped veg, a half package of short pasta, and a couple of cups of water, and I’ve got something like HH. I don’t consider that “cooking from scratch.” But it still beats the stuff in the boxes.

      The trouble seems to be that too many people have never learned even the most basic cooking skills, and therefore don’t stock the kind of stuff they need for that.

  • HairyApe

    I’m a generation removed from South Georgians who ate the occasional possum. To make the possum palatable, it should be captured alive and fed grain for a couple of weeks to get the wild out of it. Mrs. Dull, the food editor of the Atlanta Constitution in the 10’s and 20’s, has a recipe for possum.

    The great moment in possum eating is from Jean Renoir’s The Southerner. The Texas sharecropper captures one to feed his starving family. The Southerner was Renoir’s second exploration, after Swamp Water, of Southerners as natural men. Not Renoir’s best, but worth a look.

    Why is it appropriate to ridicule poor people if they happen to be forced to eat possum?

    • kg

      Why is it appropriate to ridicule poor people if they happen to be forced to eat possum?

      its not

    • soullite

      IT isn’t appropriate. It’s only appropriate in the case of Cheesy Skillets apparently.

      And people pretend to wonder why so many people think liberals are snotty elitists.

    • I like the idea of grain-fed possum. It reminds me of M.F.K. Fisher’s description of how Burgundians treat snails. Apparently you gather the escargot and put them in a bucket with a pane of glass on top. The snails climb up and adhere to the glass, and when they have purged themselves they fall off. When they have all fallen off the glass they are ready to be cooked.

      Catching and penning the possum sounds like it would be tricky, but maybe not. Was a similar process used for raccoons? They don’t faint when pursued, and have tiny little hands. I’d think it would be hard to keep a raccoon in a pen.

      • Davis X. Machina

        The Romans used to flavor their snails in situ, by providing them post-capture with only the appropriate leaves to eat, basil or such….

    • ajay

      Why is it appropriate to ridicule poor people if they happen to be forced to eat possum?

      Who’s ridiculing them?

      • HairyApe

        On reflection, my inferences were exaggerated, the mistake of an under-caffeinated brain. Thank you for correcting me.

  • I can’t believe I’m going to be the first to say this:

    Velveeta: The cheese that would not die.

    Bonus points for naming the source.

  • Halloween Jack

    I think that you might enjoy White Trash Cooking and its sequel, both by the late Ernest Matthew Mickler, written out of affection rather than parody and encompassing both the Velveeta and possum ends of the spectrum. Some of the ingredients might be difficult for a city boy to get ahold of (fresh gator, for example), and some of the recipes are rather superfluous (if I wanted to eat a potato chip sandwich, I think I could come up with one on my own), but it’s good readin’ nonetheless.

    • Malaclypse

      I still remember the mac-and-cheese recipe:

      Get a box of Kraft mac and cheese.
      Follow the directions on the box.
      Add ketchup if you got any. You’ll be glad you did.

    • mark f

      My step-daughter has a cook book with a recipe for cereal. It goes like this:

      1. Pour cereal in a bowl.
      2. Add milk.
      3. Eat with a spoon.

      I swear I am not shitting you.

      • Halloween Jack

        I believe it. I had a cookbook supposedly written for college students that not only presumed that the student had never cooked anything before, nor had ever watched anyone cooking, but possibly had never fed themselves.

        • ajay

          One of the brightest people I ever knew at college once tried to make mashed potato by mashing the potato first and then boiling the result.

  • Gus

    Meh, generalizing about American food by pointing to Velveeta meals is a bit like generalizing about American beer by pointing to Budweiser.

    • Hogan

      Easy and fun?

      • Gus

        :) exactly.

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