One package of frozen chopped broccoli, A pinch of dried rosemary. Two tablespoons of butter. Chopped celery, red peppers, and onions. One pound of Velveeta. Hot sauce to taste.
These are the ingredients that made up voluptuous Broccoli Dip, a staple of my childhood Thanksgivings. Served in a sourdough bread bowl, it was my mother’s contribution to the spread—and as a kid I was positively OBSESSED. I lingered by the hollow loaf as the filling warmed in the microwave, eager to get first dunk. And in front of the Broccoli Dip I stayed until there was no more molten dairy to be swiped up with a bread hunk or a carrot stick.
I wasn’t alone in my adoration—the appetizer typically disappeared more quickly than any other food set out that afternoon. Maybe that’s because it was the first thing to greet hungry guests, but I’m willing to bet it’s because everybody (secretly or not) loves Velveeta.
My infatuation for processed cheese didn’t end (or start, for that matter) with Broccoli Dip. In the ‘90s, I begged my mother for Nachos Lunchables during our Sunday trips to Market Basket (she acquiesced occasionally), preferred Velveeta Shells and Cheese to Kraft Dinner (there was just something about that shelf-stable packet of cheese goo), and ballpark nachos were my snack of choice during Lowell Spinners games (hot dogs, schmuck dogs). Once I got to college, I stocked my dorm room with jars of Tostitos Queso Dip and cheap tortilla chips in case of drunchies. I was always slightly disappointed when my order of cheese fries came with actual grated cheddar melted on top instead of a smooth, processed sauce (you know, the kind that perfectly coats every potato wedge). Broccoli cheese bites—deep-fried pucks of cheese product and chopped, frozen broccoli—were my app of choice at a local restaurant.
Eventually, I grew up and so did my taste buds. I stopped needing salt-packed midnight snacks. I craved more depth of flavor in curds—a hunger that’s been sated by my nearly five-year tenure with culture.
I’ve noshed wedges and wheels so varied in taste, texture, and appearance, it made me temporarily forget about my childhood love. But then, thanks to a Super Bowl party, I tasted melted Velveeta again.
It’s certainly no true cheese—if you want something with dimension and character, look elsewhere. But it is damn delicious. Its simplicity is what makes it addictive; it’s the perfect hit of salt and fat when you’re craving something comforting.
Broccoli Dip doesn’t grace our Thanksgiving table anymore—now we offer up artisan wedges and charcuterie in its place. But Velveeta can still be found in my fridge once a year—on Super Bowl Sunday (because queso). Processed cheese, I just can’t quit you!
Featured Photo Credit: Mike Mozart/Flickr.com