While I was growing up our fridge shelf was never empty of that infamous yellow box of Velveeta (though I’ve since learned it is shelf-stable – you don’t need to refrigerate until opened; part of that “cheese product” feature; preservatives, preservatives and more preservatives), and we were taught a very specific way to treat the loaf. My OCD Daddy instructed us to cut the protective foil about two-inches from the end to form a T, with a thin, sharp bladed knife, so one could fold down the two sides neatly. Then, using the special cheese cutter with the roller and thin wire, that lives in my 83-year-old mother's kitchen drawer to this day, we would slice straight down, applying even pressure all the way. The orange color was so sunny, the jiggly-but-firm slice so melty and satisfying the way it stuck to your teeth like peanut butter. We ate it with sandwiches of all kinds; one of my dad’s specialties being fried Spam on white bread with Velveeta and ketchup. (I also remember being very young and my dad feeding me a white bread, margarine and sugar sandwich as a snack before my mom got home from work…I think even at 5 I inherently knew it was a bad thing to eat, the sugar crunching between my baby teeth like sand. Years later I saw a Peanuts cartoon where Linus eats a bowl of cereal but realizes it’s just sugar, and his face is priceless, with circles around his eyes and his mouth a jagged EKG line of shocked disgust).
One of my favorite things about Velveeta, however, was the box it came in. The top fit so nicely over the bottom, whooshing out a gentle farting puff of air as it settled down. When I was about 9 and my parakeet, Pete, died, the box was the perfect coffin. I was no doubt disproportionately excited to see how nicely my bird fit, but then, you may recall the OCD Daddy and not be surprised. To this day whenever I see any form of Velveeta I fondly recall Pete.