Take cow’s milk, mix it with rennet, heat it, stir it, let it drain, press it into blocks and you have cheese. You can do this with goat, sheep, kangaroo, or even possibly, human, milk. Color it, if you would like, orange is common for cheddar, but the natural milk color is fine too. Cheese has been made for thousands of years in more or less the same way and for those who are not lactose intolerant, it is a wonderful food.
Until you get to America. The Dairyland, Wisconsin, knows how to make cheese, as they should. In the rest of the States, however, cheese is another matter. It is a commercial product, like Titanium Dioxide, or Borax. Intense engineering efforts have gone into extracting the most products from the most humble of products, milk.
After ‘cheese’ is made, you are left with whey. Just like Little Miss Muffet, eating her curds (cheese) and whey (mostly water) they have to do something with the whey because they can. The first step is to make whey powder, by drying the liquid. In days of olde, farmers would feed the whey to the pigs, but not Food Science folks. That’s not ‘viable’ or ‘fitting the economic vector’.
One day a bunch of Food Scientists were sitting around with a beaker of whey, staring at it and drinking heavily. Not whey either. They invented American Cheese. A slab about the size of a thin bathroom tile, based on whey, whey powder, colorings, wax, milk by-products, things found in the glove compartment of a ’72 Maverick Grabber and the stuff at the bottom of a woman’s purse. They knew it was high in vitamins, because they would spray them on at the factory along with the flavourings and color. Sort of like spray paint, except not by Tremclad.
Another benefit was also found. American Cheese has a half-life, like Radium or Lawrencium in the Period Table of Elements. Each slice individually wrapped would last at least five years and protect the product from harm, or taste. In testing, American Cheese performed as well as or better than lead shielding in nuclear plants in absorbing gamma radiation. It also patches asphalt roofs, fiberglass boats and, in a pinch could be used to treat battlefield burn casualties as an analog for skin grafts during rehab. Some doctors have even used American Cheese to replace arterial walls in neuroaneurysm patients. The only drawback to the product was its taste and the leftovers from the cheese food manufacturing process that were too dreadful to even use as sliced American Cheese. What to do?
Scientists worked long hours trying to find the answer, always coming close but not quite close enough to score the big one. One night after clogging his gut testing flavourings, A Noted Scientist had the Eureka Moment: Make it Bacon Flavoured and put it in an aerosol can. Spray Cheese in a Can. What flavour do you want? Bacon, Shrimp, Celery, Peppers, didn’t matter, as the propellant carried the flavour molecules along with the cheese. As long as it was a strong enough flavour, the cheese would be palatable to the customer.
After receiving the accolades of his peers, A Noted Scientist, watched though a one-way mirror as focus groups tested the product. It was a hit with consumers: Salty beyond redemption, bacon-y, cheese colored and with little holes in the aerosol nozzle, you could decorate a Ritz with fanciful floweresqe shapes. A Food Science Home Run!
With one exception. It isn’t cheese. Or Cheese Food. Or even Cheese-related product. It is Universal Manufacturing Goo: The stuff you see in railroad tank cars at the freight yards with the dangerous looking placards on the tank. UMG can be anything you want: Exert enough pressure at high enough temperature and it can be a fender for a Corvette. Or Cool Whip or the Banana filling in doughnuts. Even in the ink cartridges of your printer, UMG again. Want to mass produce prosthetic limbs? Get a tanker of Universal Manufacturing Goo, some dies and an injector and you can be turning out African-American Left Leg Prosthetics (Our motto: It ain’t Right and it ain’t Fair) and you’re in business.
The reason for this note is thus: I’m enjoying a nice hunk of St. Albert’s Cheddar with some Apple pie. A real cheese and some nice pie. Try it sometime.