Once upon a time, the offcuts from traditional cheesemaking would be thrown from factory windows straight into the mouths of the deserving peasants below.
Alas, this noble practice ground to a sudden halt in 1911, when one Walter Gerber of Switzerland devised a way of turning unmarketable scrap into, well, marketable crap. Mark Smith tries, and fails, to be positive about processed cheese.
La vache qui rit ‘Pizza’
Dhs7.5 for 10 slices
Ah, The Laughing Cow. Why is our bovine friend so amused? Perhaps she’s tickled pink by the hilariousness of her Magritte-style packaging (for ceci, surely, n’est pas un pizza). Perhaps all those suspect husbandry practices and the cavalier use of animal by-product feeds in the 1980s have finally sent her mad. Or perhaps she’s just laughing all the way to the bank, having relieved us of Dhs7.5 in exchange for these insipid plastic ribbons, which are an insult to the good name of pizza. And cheese, for that matter. We used to think of La vache qui rit as the very apex of Gallic sophistication. Not anymore.
Dhs7 for 12 slices
If the dour packaging is anything to go by, the thrift-minded folk at Valumetric have eschewed costly brand consultancy sessions and elaborate logo design in favour of stocking up on emulsifier, rennet and non-fat milk solids. Mmmm. Not that you can really taste the benefits: Valumetric is as white as the driven snow but considerably less flavoursome. On the plus side, the plastic wrappers are matt rather than shiny, which seems to help the slices stay in tact. If that ain’t clutching at straws, what is?
Dhs9.75 for 12 slices
Technically, that should probably be ‘Smoked flavour’, as the distinctive, (not to mention criminally rancid) tang of Chesdale’s offering is down to the sinister ‘smoke aroma’ listed on its ingredients list. That said, complaining about inauthenticity in processed cheese is rather like berating Britney Spears for not being a classically trained ballet dancer. Granted, it’s disgusting, but at least you can taste it: and remember, the bar is pretty low in that department. Incidentally, Chesdale’s Wikipedia entry notes that ‘Mister Slicey,’ the yellow, baseball be-hatted goon on the company’s packaging, is ‘a huge hit in the Middle East’. Have they been sniffing their marker pens?
Dhs9.50 for 10 slices
We’re pretty sure there must be a paint chart somewhere at Dulux headquarters directly inspired by the myriad colours of processed cheese. Why else would Anchor’s offering end up so eerily reminiscent of Jumeirah rental magnolia? Unfortunately, you can throw all the tastefully-hued E-numbers you like at processed cheddar, but it still ends up tasting like Lego. Just goes to show, you can’t polish a curd.
Dhs13 for 12 slices
Well, they got the name right. Nothing screams ‘I’ve given up on love’ like a refrigerator bulging with individually wrapped regenerated whey squares. Granted, in taste terms, in common with all the other sorry examples on offer, Kraft’s take on processed cheese is about as appealing as a bout of Colorado tick fever. But at least, having given up on improving the taste, they’ve supersized their product. As thick as the love child of Paris Hilton and Peter Andre, this is the slice we’re most likely to add to our gourmet Nigella veal burger. Which is to say, not very likely at all.