Shocking news: It turns out we are living in a false nacho reality. Bloomberg’s Venessa Wong reports that the orange, liquified, nacho cheese found at concession stands around the country is categorically non-existent.

The existential crisis begins with Wong’s coverage of Old El Paso’s nacho cheese-flavored taco shells. In her own words:

These shells, the marketers bragged to me, have a “big, bold cheese taste,” which naturally led me to ask them to describe how it tasted—a topic they doggedly deflected: “We don’t get too much into detail about that because it is such a competitive category,” said the company’s spokesman.

Like the rest of us, Wong was stunned that they couldn’t give a legitimate answer. The CEO of General Mills (which owns Old El Paso) went on to say that the flavor is something consumers “believe nacho flavor to be.” Wait, what? So it’s all a mind game?

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Nacho lore tells us that the original nachos received a blanket of melted cheddar cheese. Then, in the 1970s, San-Antonio based Ricos Products released a liquid cheddar form that came to dominate the nacho game. But according to the USDA, there is no categorical definition of ‘nacho’ cheese. Cheddar cheese abides by a particular milk fat and moisture content; hell, even brick cheese has its own criteria. But nacho cheese? Nada.

A spokeswoman at the International Dairy Foods Association claims that nacho cheese is merely a blend, and one that changes for every company. “It can technically be any cheese that isn’t already another kind of cheese,” reports Wong. How’s that for a mind f**k?

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[via Bloomberg]