Viva Velveeta – Dependable Dishes for the Depression

food velveeta family

Though some might wish for Velveeta to be vanquished permanently from the culinary landscape, to others venerable Velveeta has earned a place of honor in the America kitchen.

Like Faith Channing. For over 80 years Velveeta has been a vital part of her life.

It was during the dark days of the depression followed by the food shortages of WWII  that helped catapult this gooey cheese into the  hearts of Americans.

Bargain in Nutrition

vintage ads 1930s housewife and velveeta illustration

During the Depression, Velveeta was a treat for the budget as well as the family
(L) Vintage as 1934 (R) Vintage illustration Velveeta Recipe

In the thrifty thirties, Velveeta was a boon to budget conscious mothers concerned about giving their growing children adequate nutrition.

Five year old Faith was often frail and underweight.

In 1934 Faith’s mother Blanche was always fretting about the food bills.

vintage housewife 1930s ad

Vintage ad 1934

On her husbands Tom’s salary saving money on food really meant something. “When you do all your own housework and cook for a family of 5 you soon learn the meaning of true economy,” she would often sigh. And Blanche Ralston had to learn- because her food budget was only one-third of what it used to be.

“Of course I want to save money on food bills!”  Blanche bemoaned. But safeguarding the health of her children was vital.

Every housewife understood how difficult it was  to be economical and still give your little ones only the best.

But making sure Faith and her 2 brothers grew up strong and husky could break the bank.

vintage photo little girl and her dog at table 1930s

“Are your children fully protected?” advertisements shouted out at mothers. “Danger threatens constantly in the years 1 to 6. A touch of over-strain and the door is thrown open to whole group of serious troubles.”
Vintage ad 1936

In a depressed economy, children were viewed as little spendthrifts of vital energy.

Like thousands of thrifty housewives, Blanche brooded, especially when it came to fragile little  Faith:

“Can my child live on her income…the income of nourishment she gets from the meals I serve?”

One thing Blanche knew for sure “Dairy would keep your youngsters thriving and making weight gains.”

Did her diet include an abundant source of milk?

Dairy Dream

milk bottles

Vintage Ad Duraglas Milk Bottles 1936

By the 1930’s milk had taken on an almost magical mystique.

So pure, so white, so wholesome, a bottle of milk was a bottle of health, and children needed to drink at least a quart a day.

The gospel of milk as proselytized by devout domestic scientists, that milk was nature’s perfect food, was established in the dark days of WWI.

Milk they said would be the key to greater health of this generation and future generations. Because scientists had recently found that milk contained Vitamin A which caused growth, mothers regarded it as a magic potion.

But milk could be expensive to a family like Faiths who were carefully watching their pennies.

Well Lady, you’re in luck! Velveeta came to the rescue.

Vintage ad Velveeta Cheese 1936

especially for the kiddies….Velveeta was like drinking a glass of wholesome milk.
Vintage ad 1936

“Velveeta is wholesome and solves this problem for you,” Kraft reassured the smart modern mother. “It’s economical and is a fine quality food.”

“With the children in mind Kraft experts created the cheese food Velveeta.” Kraft proclaimed proudly, explaining that “ It was extra rich in valuable precious  milk minerals, calcium and in muscle-building protein and a good source of vitamin A…and as digestible as milk.”

“It takes more than a gallon of whole milk to make a single pound of cheese,” they boasted “a fact to remember for planning thrifty meals.”

Just What the Doctor Ordered

vintage ad 1934 child and food

“Seldom has a food product been so honored as Velveeta,” Kraft humbly explained upon receiving the coveted Seal of Acceptance by the Committee on Foods of the American Medical Association.
“Money cannot buy it.! Influence cannot obtain it! Only foods which pass the most searching investigation receive it”
Vintage ad 1934

And if mother still wasn’t convinced of the value of their product, Kraft suggested “Your own doctor will gladly tell you more about the benefits of Velveeta.”

And no one was more trustworthy than your family doctor.

In 1931 Velveeta was awarded the coveted seal of approval from the American Medical Association.

“To build healthy children, doctors approve this famous food,” Blanche read in an  article in Women’s Home Companion.

“What a joy to learn that today child specialists advise this dairy food to give children a splendid start to lasting health. Velveeta is rich in complete high quality protein, body building material for growing children and body repair material for adults.”

Sumptuous Dishes and They’re Thrifty

Vintage ad 1937 man speech bubble

Vintage ad 1937

Velveeta was a treat for the budget as well as the family.

During those budget conscious times, Kraft encouraged the eating of other dairy products for the whole family  as economical alternatives to more expensive main dishes like meat.

“Need Budget help?”  Kraft inquired. “Velveeta gives thrifty grand eating main dishes. Reserve at least one dinner a week,” they recommended, “for a cheese main dish.”

Vintage Velveeta advertisements

Vintage Velveeta advertisements featuring tempting recipes

To help m’lady with her budget  meal planning  Velveeta supplied an endless assortment of recipes that always involved serving a cheese sauce over an assortment of food. Any and all food would benefit  from smothering it with  creamy sauce “as smooth as satin, golden as a buttercup rich tasting , cheese flavor and fine food value.”

So Blanche put her faith in that golden rich cheese flavor food   and found a gold mine of thrift and nutrition.

Faith was full of vitality thanks to Velveeta.

© Sally Edelstein and Envisioning The American Dream, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sally Edelstein and Envisioning The American Dream with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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6 comments

  1. Interesting read – love history and appreciate your research, blessings,

    Like

  2. I love food history. You made this fun too read and visually interesting. Have you ever read the book Sugar, Fat, Salt? The author goes into Velveeta’s origin story. BTW, do you know if the recipe has changed much from the 1930’s to today?

    Like

    • I’m glad you enjoyed the post. I cant say for sure that the recipe has changed other than newer food colorings and more preservatives. Thanks for the suggestion of the book- sounds like it would be of interest. If you’re interested in food history I recently did a post as a tribute to the wonders of Crisco http://wp.me/p2qifI-1U4

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  3. Pingback: Viva Velveeta | Envisioning The American Dream

  4. Pingback: Velveeta for Victory in WWII | Envisioning The American Dream

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