“The Great Pyramid of Cheese”


I’m obliged to Francis at Liberty’s Torch for posting this very funny summary of the cheese market.

     On one evening not too long ago, a friend of mine, who has an extensive extended family, was dining with most of them. Included were several pre-teens. The bill of fare was, as is common in their not-particularly-pecunious household, macaroni and cheese.

     One of the pre-teens commented on how different the entree tasted to him from “real” macaroni and cheese — by which he meant, as pre-teens often do, Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. He contrasted my friend’s wife’s dish unfavorably with the commercial preparation.

     An uncle to the clan cleared his throat. “Kevin,” he intoned, “you know I sell cheese, don’t you?” The youngster nodded. “Well, it’s about time you learned about the Great Pyramid of Cheese.” And he told them all about it.

     It seems that there are places where they make Cheese. The real stuff, straight from the milk, brimming with the odorific and oleaginous virtues that your narrator has found he cannot renounce. And it is good.

     Most of it, anyway. Some wheels of cheese just don’t turn out right. But they’re not thrown away, oh, no. That would be wasteful. They’re sold to factors from other shops, which take them in, and melt them down, and add oil, and chemicals, and further processing, and thereby produce… Cheese Food. Cheese Food is regulated by law to contain no more than 49% non-milk additives, and must not contain any but a specified list of preservatives and artificial flavor enhancers. There are people who eat Cheese Food by choice. There are others who are trying to help them.

     But some batches of Cheese Food don’t come out right either, and they’re not thrown away, either. They’re sold to factors from other shops, which take them in, and melt them down, and add oil, and chemicals, and further processing, and thereby produce… Process Pasteurized Cheese Food. PPCF is the step down from Cheese Food, and may contain up to 70% non-milk additives, plus a much wider range of flavor and color enhancers, and preservatives that guarantee that it will not spoil over the three months between your toddler’s two demands for a grilled cheese sandwich right now, mom!

     And not all of this is saleable, either, but (you guessed it) it’s not thrown away just for that. The rejected barrels are sold to factors from other shops, which take them in, and melt them down, and add oil, and chemicals, and further processing, and thereby produce… Process Pasteurized Cheese Food Substance. PPCFS may contain up to 82% non-milk additives. The flavor and color are almost entirely chemically produced, and the preservatives in it are reputed to be stronger than formaldehyde. Velveeta was once PPCFS, but has moved up the pyramid to Level 3 (PPCF). Cheez Whiz is PPCFS. A number of people have drawn images of the Blessed Virgin on their basement walls with PPCFS from spray cans, and have made quite a lot of money.

     But… that’s right. Some of it doesn’t meet the standards for retail-saleable PPCFS. The rejected barrels are sold to factors from other shops, which take them in, and melt them down, and add oil, and chemicals, and further processing, and thereby produce…

     Well, it doesn’t really have a name, and it doesn’t need one, either, because all of it is consumed by a single company.

     “And Kevin,” the uncle rumbled, “would you like to guess what that company is?”

     Little Kevin swallowed and shook his head.

     “It’s the Kraft Company, Kevin.”

     And I, who have set this tale down for you, have checked it in all particulars, and every word of it is true. And I’m told that little Kevin no longer asks for Kraft Macaroni And Cheese, either.

Speaking as a lifelong cheese-lover, thanks, Francis, for clarifying the situation for all of us!  That explains why I’ve never been a huge fan of Kraft M&C.  I’d rather make my own, using real aged cheddar, and perhaps some smoked gouda, and parmesan, and a few other flavorful ingredients.  I’ve even been known, in a fit of culinary madness, to make garlic M&C!



  1. My wife just made some mac-n-cheese from scratch. So good! It's just like when you regularly consume farm fresh eggs and will never buy them at the grocery store again.

  2. "You got my Cheez Whiz, boy?" Best product placement ever.

    We used to get government cheese. As I recall, it was labeled "American processed pasteurized cheese food product". It had a stable shelf life of, well, I don't really know. Years, apparently.

  3. I have to say to you guys in the US, but mac-n-cheese is really a unfortunate knock-off for the true cheese pasta: the fettuccine Alfredo… 🙂

  4. One of the things that amazed me when I lived in California was encountering people who ate this Mac'n'cheese thing by preference instead of under duress.

    Japan is pretty much a cheese desert where occasional bizarre cheese like products show up to be bought, most of which are "processed" cheese of some stripe and yet they all taste better than Mac'n'cheese.

    Plus thanks to Amazon and friends I can get French Raclette, Australian Cheddar and miscellaneous blue cheeses without too much trouble delivered to my doorstep here in rural Japan

  5. Come to think of it Kraft grated "parmesan" is pretty vile too. I presume it has about as close a relationship to real Permeggiano as Mac'n'cheeze has to Cheddar

  6. On the rare occasion, my mother would make Kraft mac and cheese. I couldn't stand the stuff, and would only eat enough to keep from the wrath of refusing to eat what was cooked. I think my taste buds were warning me, and probably saved me from some horrible gastronomical ailment.

  7. I wish I had known this story when my kids were little. They still aren’t sure about homemade Mac n’ cheese so I’ll probably still tell them this story.

    I make a damn good Mac n’ cheese too- I use white cheddar and Gruyère.

  8. I'm a man who loves my cheese. I'll admit it. Also, lactose intolerant. Worth it. Just never got to be a fan of Mac and cheese.
    Kraft Mac and cheese used to be sold as 'Kraft Dinner' when I was a kid. My dad, who was an orphan raised on trash, more or less, refused to cook it, referring to it as 'Crap Dinner.' I have never had reason to disagree.

  9. be knocking Kraft Mac and Cheese, it and ramen noodles kept me alive in college. You can make Kraft M&C without milk, use just enough water to liquefy the powder. Not as creamy as with milk, but edible.

  10. American cheese isn't cheese. My mom used to make it with real cheddar. I find the smelll of the Kraft product revolting.

    The less process the food the better you are. Pringles, for example, are engineered to be delicious and they are.

    Remember, just because the FDA says it is "safe" it doesn't make it good or good for you.

  11. for some reason I am now recalling a scene from the show "Fresh Off the Boat" where the Taaiwanese mom extols the virtue of boxes macaroni and cheese:

    "It's so easy to make! you just add water! It's cheese….. from water…."

  12. More than one restaurant has had to replace the mac and cheese on their kids menu with the Kraft product because the real thing didn't taste "right."

    Am I the only one who is embarrassed by American Cheese. With all the great cheese in the world that's what we have named for us.

    At one time there was a true American cheese, Liederkranz. Fairly interesting history if you've the time to look it up. Start with American Heritage Magazine.

    1. You are not alone.

      Replacing any other cheese with American makes it objectively worse. Had an Italian Hogie in Delaware with American instead of proper provolone- it was a sacralage!

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *