On the night of June 12th, 1949, Chemist GC Wharram of DuPont Corp. took a break from studying the sulfur chemistry of FOOF to eat a grilled cheese sandwich. Unfortunately, he had been rather in a hurry while preparing it, and having had only slices off a block of colby to work with, the cheese had not melted through entirely. While chewing a non-melted bit he decided to cancel his planned experiment, most likely saving his life, along with the mortal souls of Wilmington, Delaware.
At this precise moment, the night janitor, having completed his sweeping rounds of the DuPont factory floor, walked into the break room for a coffee. GC Wharram, exiting hurriedly to avoid speaking with a negro-man, by chance glanced down at the collected sweepings in the janitor's dustpan, sitting just outside the door. He stared, rapt, at the slate grey powder with bits of lime green and cobalt blue glowing from within. While Wharram's fertile mind explored the possibilities of the glowing, carcinogenic refuse, cycling like the CEO's rolodex through each commercial possibility, he absentmindedly picked a morsel of Colby from his teeth, deep in thought.
What can I do with this?
Then the bit of Wisconsinian goodness hit his tongue. Neurons fired like in a storm, connections made, conclusions arrived at, almost instantly. Eureka!
He spirited away the dustpan with its valuable contents to his laboratory, spending the night in a frenzied state of synthesis and product development. Finally, with dawn breaking over the Delaware River, Wharram plopped his head down next to a shiny, orange, 3 x 3 inch square of moulded chemical offal, the outcome of the evening's travails, and fell asleep. Willie the Janitor was fired later that day for theft of company property.
Thus, on that glorious day, was American Cheese (aka Kraft Singles) born.
Ok, that isn't actually true. In fact, I made the entire thing up while devouring a melty delicious grilled cheese sandwich last night. But given its amorphous, blob-like, natural as a gram of ununquadium qualities, American Cheese might as well be. In reality, American Cheese, like LSD, was first developed in Switzerland, and quickly patented by the "krafty" James L. Kraft in 1916; but it wasn't until 1950 that Kraft developed a mass-marketed, individually-wrapped product, no doubt assisted by the innovations of the Manhattan Project. Chemically-engineered for melty goodness, coloured yellow ochre for maximum believability (the actual product is grey before colouration), and marketed as an, ahem, calcium-rich alternative to *actual* cheese (later shown to be false by the FDA), Kraft Singles skyrocketed in sales and is today one of the most recognizable brands in the large Kraft family of processed carcinogenic shit.
Symmetry, in his above writeup, excoriates American Cheese for being, in his mind, falsely representative of the great American nation. Oh no, my friend. Not at all. American Cheese, cunningly, is in some ways the utter, perfect symbol of that other great Middle Kingdom, one that every proud, chest-thumping, tax-hating, cancer fighting Uh-may-rican should embrace wholeheartedly.
This goopy, plasticine "food-like" item is the end, logical result of a Horatio Alger-like capitalist national vision. A food that doesn't meet popular demand (there was plenty of cheese on the market before), but creates popular demand for it (this cheese* melts much more easily!). A food that is a godforsaken amalgam of chemicals, wrapped individually in a pure petroleum product, and marketed unironically as "cheese", which is a gross misrepresentation of that hallowed term. A food that likely causes cancer, and is not in the least nutritious, but is at least cheap, readily available, keeps almost forever and is made in China! (probably true). And last but not least, forms the integral part of a McDonald's Double cheeseburger.
In short: A product that was made for profit, unhealthy to the general public, processed beyond all recognizance, inexpensive, and wrapped in petroleum.
*snif* God Bless America.