Well, the good news is official: Kraft confirmed there is indeed a Velveeta shortage in our nation's near future. Not since Hostess announced its plans to cease and desist with the Twinkie has there been such a collective wave of culinary panic. While online media outlets continue to shout the news, Paul Revere-style, I remain completely Zen.
I'm a loud and proud proponent of eating little or no cow dairy. It's a big reason why I got rid of and kept off 180 pounds five years ago, but I'm only going to leap onto a soap box for part of this blog. Because I not only relate, I feel your pain and your panic, Velveeta lovers. I'm still mourning the demise of Gibbles, my favorite potato chip of all time, who went out of business a year ago. And I still harbor a smoldering hope that someone will revive their production line down in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, so I can resume my annual visits.
But about that Velveeta... why not look at the upcoming shortage as an opportune time to cut the cord? Or at least downgrade consumption to a semi-annual orgy for the taste buds, as I did with my dearly departed Gibbles? The crispy, cooked-in-lard snow white potato chips that I loved didn't exactly have a laundry list of nutritional virtues, but at least they were comprised of something that sprouted from the earth. What disturbs me most about Velveeta is its resemblance to orange rubber. Doesn't that kind of scream the words impure and unwholesome, and oh yeah, mega amounts of processing?
Oh, the passionate trysts I once had with brick after gelatinous brick of the salty spread. And I'm the first to admit how appealing Velveeta, drizzled in voluptuous rivulets over a mountain of Fritos, is to the eye. I'd take my fix any way I could get it: in hastily sliced slabs, as part of a plateful of Triscuit timbales, or, when and when I had the patience, melted. Note to Joan Rivers: Elizabeth Taylor wasn't the only one who stood in front of the microwave and yelled HURRY!)
How could I not be well-versed in Velveeta-ese? It's a binge eater's dream, for Pete's sake! I loved it because it was cheap, coma-inducing and possessed minimal nutritional redemption, which meant it paired perfectly with self-loathing.
I'm a big believer in having something to look forward to in the eating department. It's how I've kept 180 pounds off. I've found a balance between nose-to-the-grindstone rigor and discipline and incorporating foods that maybe aren't a 10 on the nutrition scale. But as my healing (the three-fold body-mind-spirit kind) has evolved, so has the eating.
A few years into my transformation, I'd gleefully plan meals and other adventures that were designed for giving myself little vacations from the lean-and-clean norm. Among my favorite off-the-leash pastimes: Savoring a creamy pint of New England Clam Chowder or cup of Jacque Torres' hot chocolate. Chelsea Market in Manhattan is where I could indulge both in one-stop shopping. I'm all for health, balance and weight maintenance, but I'm human! I realized if I were going to keep it off, I'd have to pay a certain level of respect to my taste buds. An occasional visit to Chelsea Market didn't upset the apple cart and trigger a months-long monster binge, or an insidious backslide into old habits. I'd simply enjoy the amazing flavors and textures, groan a little at the effects of the rich ingredients, and continue my on-foot exploration of the city. New York is ideal for recreational grazing because if you skip the taxi ride, much of the caloric overload can be negated.
So there I was at Chelsea Market last year, during a semi-annual visit, sated and humming with satisfaction after a pint of New England Clam Chowder from The Lobster Place and a cup of hot chocolate for dessert. I was practically skipping down Ninth Avenue toward Greeenwich Village, but before I reached Fourth Street, the cramping began. I now refer to the seizing pain as dairy cramps and I get them anytime I go into overload with cow dairy. A few slices of American Cheese on a bunless Five Guys burger -- yes. A big bowl of chowder -- no. My body simply can't tolerate it anymore.
I shudder when I look back on the burdens I gave my liver, digestive track, stomach, spleen... the whole gang. If my innards now go into red alert over a bowl of clam chowder, how in God's name did they handle what I used to do five years ago? This clearly explains why, on my worst days, I bore a disconcerting resemblance to a slurring Anna Nicole Smith in her spiral-down phase.
The short of it where Velveeta and I are concerned: it still looks mighty tempting. Even now, knowing what I know, I'm having little side fantasies as I type. And it doesn't exactly taste unpleasant either. But I've found other foods to enjoy in its place and I really, REALLY like the way I look and feel, so I'll continue to keep my distance.