A cheesy battle: Velveeta heavy vs. Velveeta light


May 08, 1991|By ROB KASPER

I am waffling on one of the big culinary questions of our time, namely: Is Velveeta Light more appealing than Velveeta-the-heavy.

Velveeta Light is getting a flurry of attention. It is newer, lighter and has has fewer grams of fat per serving than Velveeta-the-heavy -- down to four grams from six.

Still, I like the old orange stuff. We go back aways.

Years ago, Velveeta-the-heavy was responsible for getting me a trip all the way out to Oregon to judge a cooking contest.

The Velveeta cooking contest was sponsored by a group called the Portland Culinary Alliance. By now it has probably changed its name and denies ever being linked to a pasteurized process cheese product.

But at the time, back in the go-go '80s, the national mood was as loose as melted Velveeta, and some curious culinarian mailed me an airline ticket.

I had a wonderful time in Oregon. I ate the best salmon of my life. I ate elk and deer, which I learned, can both can be called "venison." I ate huckleberries, and truffle cake at Jake's Deli, and smashed poultry at Kahneeta. Kahneeta is a lodge on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation where a dinner specialty is poultry cooked in clay. You get to clobber the clay-encrusted cooked hen with a hammer. Not only is it legal and delicious, you get to keep the hammer.

All these activities were linked to Velveeta in the same way White House boss John Sununu's passion for skiing is linked to our national security. Both were responses to a call to duty.

When duty had called me to Oregon to judge a Velveeta contest, I figured I might as well stay for four days and eat. Similarly, once duty has required Sununu to travel to the Rocky Mountains and verify they are still there, he figures he should spend some time skiing down them.

That kind of duty has not called me again. But I still have fond memories of my Portland trip, and Velveeta-the-heavy.

And so it was very difficult for me, not to show favoritism to my old friend when I compared it to the upstart Velveeta Light, in my five-point Velveeta fitness test.

The five points covered orangeness, malleability, meltability, ability to inspire thirst and compatibility.

Orangeness -- Birds gotta fly, fish gotta swim and pasteurized process cheese product gotta be garish. It's the way of the world. The new box Velveeta Light comes in is a wimpy, off-yellow, color. It is a not nearly as striking as the refocus-your-eyeballs yellow on the box of Velveeta-the-heavy.

Once I removed the box and foil coverings off the Velveetas, I found that the actual color of the new cheese product loaf was much oranger than the milky looking slab of Velveeta-the-heavy. Velveeta Light got the nod in orangeness.

Malleability -- Velveeta is the ultimate medium of processed cheese product sculpture. Twist it into some imaginative form and Velveeta holds its shape. Since I have a limited imagination, the only shape I could think of was the one I used to make as a kid at lunchtime -- a small rubber ball. Slabs of both Velveeta Light and Velveeta-the-heavy easily rolled into ball shapes. However, when I bounced the Velveeta balls off the cutting board, the Light bounced much higher than regular Velveeta. Again the nod went to Velveeta Light, it had more bounce per rounded ounce.

Meltability -- I am not really sure this is a word. But then again I am not really sure this is really a cheese. Anyway, a main appeal of Velveeta is that is melts well. It covers chips or macaroni like the dew on the lawn.

To test melting ability, I cut off a square of Velveeta Light and a triangle of Velveeta and dropped them into a hot skillet.

I timed the meltdown with my official Velveeta kitchen timer. This is a battery operated device not available in stores. I got mine some time ago at birthday party for Velveeta held in a fancy New York hotel. I use it only for special occasions, like timing contestants in games of charades, and timing the melting point of Velveeta.

According to this official timer, the triangle of Velveeta-the-heavy melted in 1 minute 21 seconds, a full 57 seconds faster than it took the square of Velveeta Light to get liquid. Nod to the old timer.

Ability to Inspire Thirst -- Eating Velveeta is supposed to make you thirsty. Just as I would never serve appetizers without also offering beverages, I would never sit down to a slab of Velveeta without having something to drink. Again the nod goes to the new stuff. An ounce of Velveeta Light may have 2 fewer grams of fat and 10 fewer calories than Velveeta-the-heavy, but the new stuff also has 20 more milligrams of sodium than the old stuff. And sodium makes me thirsty.

Compatibility -- My tests showed I could work with the newcomer. It sculpts, it melts, it bounces. But the big question remains: could I take it fishing with me?

The old Velveeta was a terrific fishing companion. A loaf of it would last me most of the day. I would eat half of the loaf for lunch. And the remainder was put to good use.

As most fishermen know, the old Velveeta was terrific bait.

So until I get this Velveeta Light out on a boat and see how it works underwater, I remain uncommitted.

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