Gastronaut readers know I am not one to prematurely judge a processed cheese product, no matter how suspect its origins. Hidden gustatory gems can be found in surprising places; thus, when a gourmet friend of mine alerted me to the existence of Velveeta Cheesy Bites, I was eager to see if the Republic of Liquid Gold had issued a solid frozen appetizer I could feature at my next high-class cocktail party. I also incidentally had just finished Cheddar, Gordon Edgar’s wonderful treatise on how and why this cheese maintains such a hold on the American culinary cultural imaginary. Edgar opens his book with an anecdote about hipsters in a blind taste testing unknowingly picking the winner of a Best Macaroni and Cheese contest that eschewed utilizing natural and/or locally sourced fromages in favor of (you guessed it): Velveeta. Suckahz!
Although I was poised to judge this product favorably, my positive bias melted just as quickly at the interior contents of the “cheesy bites.” From the beginning, there were technical issues. Long before the earliest endpoint of the recommended baking time range, many of the bites had oozed gobs of cheese onto my parchment-paper-lined cookie sheet. Selecting one of the few still intact, I bit into its pale, mealy, insufficiently thin coating of tasteless batter, bursting the “bite” and filling my mouth with what can only be described as hyper-salty liquid dairy goo that tasted as if it had turned about a decade ago. Liquid gold? More like liquid mold. I wouldn’t even serve this “cheese” turd at an ironic “bad food from the 1970s” party.
In hopeful comparison, I also tried Cheesy Bites’ shelf neighbor in the frozen food aisle, Doritos Loaded, breaded cheese triangles in popular flavors of the aforementioned corn chip such as nacho, jalapeno-and-cheese, and Cool Ranch. I selected the oxymoronic Cool Ranch variety for my hot snack and was initially heartened to see no evidence of premature burpage of cheese from the wedges as they heated in the oven. The crumb batter was crisp as promised and seasoned with ranch spices but inside was…warm air? Somehow the cheese had pulled a Houdini act while in the oven. Unlike the famous magician, however, the cheese never reappeared, so, guess what, I never applauded and threw the rest of the Doritos Load of Crap in the trash.
Fool me twice, shame on me, or maybe third time is the charm? Leads welcome for better cheesy options.