Canada’s National Post has an excerpt from Michael Moss’s book Salt Sugar Fat (Toronto: Signal Books, 2013) about “the day they took the Cheese out of Cheez Whiz.” A sample:
[Dean] Southworth had been part of the team that created Cheez Whiz in the early 1950s. The mission had been to come up with a speedy alternative to the cheese sauce used in making Welsh rarebit, a popular but laborious dish that required a half-hour or more of cooking before it could be poured over toast. It took them a year and a half of sustained effort to get the flavor right, but when they did, they succeeded in creating one of the first megahits in convenience foods. Southworth and his wife, Betty, became lifelong fans and made it part of their daily routine. “We used it on toast, muffins, baked potatoes,” he told me. “It was a nice spreadable, with a nice flavor. And it went well at night with crackers and a little martini. It went down very, very nicely, if you wanted to be civilized.”
So it was with considerable alarm that he turned to his wife one evening in 2001, having just sampled a jar of Cheez Whiz he’d picked up at the local Winn-Dixie supermarket. “I said, ‘Holy God, it tastes like axle grease.’ I looked at the label and I said, ‘What the hell did they do?’ I called up Kraft, using the 800 number for consumer complaints, and I told them, ‘You are putting out a goddamn axle grease!'”
Of course, axle grease keeps better. Southworth duly read the list of ingredients, and did not in fact see any mention of “cheese” at all, though several components whey, for instance did show up here and there.