Regarding Cheez Whiz

When I put out the call for Food You Don’t Know What to Do With, one of my dear readers (who also happens to be a dear friend), submitted the following:

Cheez Whiz. Two E’s, two Z’s. That is all.

Cheez Whiz. You know, the toxically orange cheese-esque product that comes in an aerosol can.

He was, I think, both teasing me (he knows I am probably not the target culinary demographic for Whiz), and also, maybe just a little bit serious. Or, not serious, exactly, because this person knows very well what to do with Cheez Whiz (same thing you do with whipped cream, right? Open mouth, depress nozzle, swallow.), but sincere in his affection for this particular novelty foodstuff.

My uncle is a celebrated chef and restauranteur in the Hudson Valley region of New York State. His food is exceptional, sophisticated and refined. His newest restaurant has been featured on Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations and in 2007, he and his team beat Bobby Flay at his own game (Battle Cowboy Ribeye!) on Iron Chef America. He is part of the culinary elite and yet, sitting on the bar next to bottles of top-shelf bourbon and wines that cost more than my graduate school tuition, is a can of Spam.

“Spiced” + “Ham”–I do so love a good portmanteau!

He used to say this was meant to keep him humble, to remind him of the kind of food he ate as a poor kid growing up in a family of twelve.

My dad loved Spam, too. And things like fried bologna and Beefaroni and other low-end treats. I am going to admit right now to a certain foodie snobbery on my part–a snobbery my Cheez Whiz-suggesting friend is well aware of–but I am also going to promise that if, when I next randomly draw a foodstuff from the comment pool, Cheez Whiz happens to pop up, I am not going to reach my hand back into the Blue Mixing Bowl of Happiness and Possibility and re-draw something else, something worthier, something “better.” No. I am going to do it a solid and write about it with the same reverence and attention I might apply to oysters or tofu or artichokes.

Why? Well, for one thing, this project is about helping people approach ingredients they are having trouble with. It’s meant to be helpful, not judgmental. Unless I am allergic to it (hint: I’m not), I am open to cooking or working with pretty much any ingredient. It’s all for you, people. I’m doing this for you!

Of course, there is a less selfless reason, too: I love a cooking challenge. (Though I’m sure I wouldn’t have survived ten minutes under the lights at Kitchen Stadium!) I also want to continue to challenge my palate. No, I don’t think I like Cheez Whiz. Or Jello. Or Popsicles. (My children can not wrap their brains around this one.) And maybe I will continue to live my life with those dislikes firmly in place. That’s fine if it happens that way.

But I tell my kids all the time that sometimes it takes many, many bites of a thing before we really know how we feel about it. And sometimes we can hate something for a very long time (watermelon) and then, one day (during pregnancy), take a reluctant bite and find it to be positively ambrosial. Our tastes utterly changed.

I want to remain open to the possibility of that moment.

So Cheez Whiz? Yeah, sure. Bring it.


Did you ever do a culinary 180? What food did you once hate/love that you now love/hate?

10 thoughts on “Regarding Cheez Whiz

  1. Lisa Romeo says:

    When I was expecting my second son, I craved all sorts of oddball stuff I typically didn’t eat…and on an almost daily basis dumped spoonfuls of Cheez Whiz on leftover steamed veggies and stuck it in the microwave until it made a suitably gloppy mess.
    Happy to report the resulting child, now 14, would never touch the stuff!

    • Sheila Squillante says:

      Ah, yes–the pregnancy palate is catholic in the weirdest ways. But hey, at least you were getting your veggies in, right?!

  2. Sharon McGill says:

    One could argue that Cheez Whiz isn’t quite food, but a food product, heheh. That said, one of my all-time fav snacks used to be a cold hot dog wrapped in a slice of Velveeta. And while I now make mac and cheese with a Béchamel sauce and Gruyère or sharp cheddar, I still have a hankering for the blue box with its magical, orange powder. I used to add cut-up hot dogs to it. Mmmmm.

    • Sheila Squillante says:

      I make a similar argument regarding the difference between what I’m calling “real” pizza (New Haven or New York style, please!) and, say, Dominos, which I call Pizzafood.

      Also, I want your mac and cheese!

  3. Ron says:

    My dad used to snack on Gorgonzola and Sopressata when I was a kid. The cheese was way too pungent and the salami was way to fatty for my taste as a ten year old. Now I frequently combine both with a nice Dolcetto.

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