There comes a time in the life of every freedom-loving person when he is forced to stand on his own two feet and make a very fundamental choice: Velveeta Cheesy Skillets, or Hamburger Helper? That time is now, Americans. Will you rise to the challenge?
I like this opening paragraph from today's very important WSJ story on this topic that I will just go ahead and quote it in full, while simultaneously filling out a Pulitzer Prize nomination form on its behalf: "Kraft Foods Inc.'s strategy of pushing its brand managers to think creatively is being put to the test as the company prepares to split in two. If Velveeta Cheesy Skillets are any indication, it is working."
What does it mean? What is it trying to communicate? How are Velveeta Cheesy Skillets—boxes containing both pasta and processed artificial "Cheez" ingestible substance, to which you may add grease and carcass meat as you like—an "indication," of anything?
Well I couldn't be more pleased that you asked. The real story here is that the collapsing American family, beset by unemployment, divorce, strife, poverty, and misery on all sides, has but one single pleasure left at the end of its dreary day: a real, home-cooked meal. Of course mom (dad left long ago) is too tired from working her three part-time jobs to do much real cooking. But still, the spirit is there, and isn't that what's important?
"Moms didn't feel great about taking something out of the freezer and throwing it in the microwave," said Adam Grablick, brand manager of Velveeta convenient meals.
This, then, is what our own mothers have been reduced to. The choice between Hamburger Helper and Velveeta Cheesy Skillets has come to stand in for the loving care once taken in preparing home cooked meals for one's family; the act of pouring processed Cheez product out of a foil pouch has come to be seen as an acceptably superior act to microwaving some similarly packaged swill, in the spectrum of "food" simulacrums on which America resides, at the lower end. Our nation's deceased sweet grandmothers are weeping in their made-from-scratch-biscuits-covered graves at the sobering knowledge of what we, as a nation, have become. A nation of Cheez. A nation in which the skillet is only notional.
A nation whose Hamburger can no longer be helped.