We've taken on the Cheez Whiz controversy this week. Specifically: Did it ever come in a spray can?
For those of you late to the party, I'll catch you up:
Like many others, I was under the same misconception as many other American that Cheez Whiz was once available in an aerosol-like spray can. However, that product is actually another Kraft Foods snack -- Easy Cheese.
There's much back-and-forth on this, and some Internet chatterers pointed to a scene in the 1980 comedy classic, The Blues Brothers, in which Dan Aykroyd, as Elwood Blues, is showing his brother "Joliet" Jake (John Belushi, of course) around the dilapidated flophouse where he lives.
"Did you get my Cheez Whiz, boy?" an old man says to Elwood, who tosses the geezer what we assume is a can of Cheez Whiz.
I summoned Kraft Foods senior manager Basil Maglaris, who reviewed the movie, and he concludes that Elwood is actually tossing Easy Cheese.
"You can clearly see the triangular Nabisco logo on the can," says Maglaris. "There's little doubt."
Cheez Whiz was invented in 1952 by Edwin Traisman (one of the food scientists who invented McDonald's process for making French fries). It first appeared in a glass jar, as it does today (making it easy to microwave into melted goodness and poured over nachos), though many people now prefer their Whiz in a plastic squeezable tub.
Never, ever, in its six-decade history has Cheez Whiz come in a spray-on can, says Maglaris, who, upon my request, checked with other Kraft food historians and the company archives.
'Blues' Cheese Memories
For the final word, I took this issue to Dan Aykroyd, hot off an appearance this past week on Saturday Night Live. The Emmy-winning, Oscar-nominated star stuck to his guns, and offered this response:
"Cheez Whiz did indeed come in cans," he says. "Although not a spray, the nozzle squirted the contents out in a consistency somewhere between toothpaste and shaving cream."
He also offered this tidbit: "The gentlemen to whom Elwood tosses the can was legendary makeup man, Lane "Shotgun" Britton, who took care of Sinatra, Bob Hope and many others."
Dan might've gotten this wrong, at least if you believe Kraft. But even if he has, this man has gotten an awful lot right.
When he and Belushi put the likes of James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Cab Calloway and John Lee Hooker in The Blues Brothers, that sort of music -- a true American treasure -- wasn't getting much attention.
And as a harmonica player myself, it was truly thrilling to watch The Blues Brothers DVD and see Big Walter Horton in one of the few times he was ever captured on film.
Perhaps in Ghostbusters III -- and, yes, that film is now in production -- Dr. Venkman can summon the spirit of Traisman and let the grand exalted Cheez wizard spray us with a greater truth.
P.S. This will be my final Cheez Whiz blog.
Photo © Kraft Foods (top); Universal Pictures (Middle), Getty Images (Bottom).