Back in the day (circa 1970s & 80s) there was a little government program call Welfare, which eventually became AFDC (Aid to Families with Dependent Children). This helped low-income people with assistance for the bare necessities in life: shelter, food, help with daycare and schooling. Along with this also came Commodities (and not the trading kind). Once a month you were able to go to a designated building in your community and pick up some food supplied by the government that would supplement your meager diet.
It wasn’t anything special: rice, powdered milk, noodles, the occasional fruit, canned meat (blek!), and cheese. As the years have moved forward, the choices have expanded to more products that include peanut butter, soups and canned fruit, among other things, but the one thing that was the highlight for me back in the early 80s was the cheese.
This was not your ordinary cheese. Nosireebob, this was ambrosia! In a time when me and my 2 little girls needed all the help we could get, these small foodstuffs really came in handy, and the cheese made the most awesome homemade mac & cheese there was and feed us for a week.
The exception is the gourmet status of this dish when my Grandma Larson made it, which I still dream about… mmmmmmmmmm…
Pardon the drool. It happens sometimes.
Flash forward 20 years and Rick & I are living on an Indian reservation in Northwest Wisconsin when a co-worker of mine gives me 2 pounds of commod cheese. I swear I died and went to heaven!! I made those 2 small blocks last a very long time. It was a true test of willpower.
Up here, this stuff is like gold, and people will promise you their next bingo winnings just to get a tiny portion of that 5 pound brick. This stuff is pure money and the trading power that it holds is nothing short of miraculous.
Last winter, we were fortunate enough to be the recipients of several blocks of this cheese through the charity of others that just felt like sharing it. I, in turn, payed it forward and gave some away also, and the rest I packaged up and froze, giving us ample supplies to use as our hearts desired.
And today, I finally divided up the last of the cheese that has been in my fridge since Christmas. (Here is probably where I should note that if you don’t actually open the package, it has a very long shelf life in the fridge.)
Now don’t go on about “Hey, I though you were a health conscious person who only ate organic food!” Yes, organic is my first choice when it comes to almost anything that I buy, but when it comes to cheese, I will take commod every time.
Not only does it have great flavor, but it’s roots go very deep for me. It is a reminder of part of my past, and what I have gone through in my life and done to make it to where I am today. I think that is a necessity for everyone to do… look back in your life and see what you have accomplished and smile, knowing that you have become a better person for what you have gone through in your life.
And while you doing that, grab a piece of cheese and smile, because it doesn’t get much better than that.