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May 20, 2012 09:45 AM

Kraft "real Parmesan cheese"

I can't believe that at this stage of my life I'm wondering what's in the green box (which the Kraft website calls "iconic"! I'd have thought notorious, but never mind). However, I have just been writing something about parmigiano-reggiano terminology and came up against the English word "Parmesan."

Italians used to use the term, in English, derisively, to indicate the international imitations of parmigiano-reggiano, but the European Commission approved the term as a translation of parmigiano. And so, in the European Union, Parmesan is parmigiano-reggiano DOP.

But the European Commission cuts no ice, I'm sure, with the green boxers, or anyone outside the European Union, so the question remains: what is in the green box? what do they mean by "real Parmesan cheese"? (I have no illusions that it is imported from Italy!)

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  1. I grew up with an Irish Nana and a Sicilian Grandpop and Nana insisted on having the Green Can in the house. My Grandpop said it was ground soap… or is that what he said it tasted like? I don’t know, I was never a fan, not even “in a pinch”

    1. If you grew up in the semi-rural Midwest in the 1940s and '50s, the stuff in the green box was what went on your spaghetti, and you probably pronounced it "Parmeesian cheese". The only alternative was the small round box of a similar substance that came in the Chef Boy-Ar-Dee spaghetti dinner kits. This was before their canned version; it was a box that contained an inner box of uncooked spaghetti, a can of sauce (either meat or mushroom - my mom would get a box of each and combine them), and that "cheese". And then, after you grew up and lived in places where real parmigiano was readily available, that green box simply dropped off your radar. Or else you'd occasionally notice them stacked in the cheese section and wonder, "Who on earth still BUYS that crap?"

      1 Reply
      1. re: Will Owen

        "Or else you'd occasionally notice them stacked in the cheese section and wonder, "Who on earth still BUYS that crap?"

        LOL. So true. That's why I bought a small one the other day just to remember what it tasted like...gotta remember those roots.

      2. Definitely grew up with the stuff and there's still a nostalgic sympathy, but I no longer buy it. I do, however, occasionally buy the Chef Boyardee Pizza Kit and the Kraft boxed spaghetti dinner, both of which contain something similar to the green can cheese. I could, of course, sub real parm in the Chef B Pizza and the Kraft spag, but I don't. To do so would denature the things.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Perilagu Khan

          I grew up with the stuff in the cupboard, until I discovered the joys of good cheeses. Whenever I get a whiff of the stuff now, it smells a bit pukey to me. Granted, lots of cheeses have skanky odors, but the Kraft green canned stuff bears no resemblance to Parmigiano Reggiano in any way. If anything, it smells closer to Asiago and low quality Romano (not better pecorinos).

          1. re: 1sweetpea

            I think the green-box stuff I ate as a kid was a Parmesan-Romano blend … and no, not a pecorino at all, but cow all the way.

        2. " the question remains: what is in the green box? what do they mean by 'real Parmesan cheese'?"

          I don't see anywhere that they use the phrase "real Parmesan cheese."

          From the Kraft web site:
          KRAFT 100% GRATED PARMESAN Cheese

          KRAFT 100% GRATED PARMESAN Cheese, in the familiar green can, has been a part of the Italian meal tradition for over half a century. For millions of Americans, shaking on the grated Parmesan cheese is the finishing touch that signals permission to share good food in the company of those that you love.

          Shake it on your favorite pasta or pizza. Or visit our recipe page to make great dishes using KRAFT 100% GRATED PARMESAN Cheese. Now available in 16 oz. and 24 oz. sizes.


          1. And here's a picture of the can. I don't see the word "real." Maybe that was used with older versions and they have since stopped using it?

            7 Replies
            1. re: ttoommyy

              Perhaps the OP inferred that "100%" meant "real"?

              1. re: LindaWhit

                "Perhaps the OP inferred that "100%" meant "real"?"

                I was wondering the same thing. I think that's what Kraft wants the consumer to believe. But it can also be read as 100% modifying the word "grated;" fully grated Parmesan cheese. As an advertising copywriter I would not put it past them.

                1. re: ttoommyy

                  Sneaky little buggers, those ad copywriters. ;-)

                  1. re: LindaWhit

                    Aren't we though? lol
                    It's rarely ever the copywriter though. I'm sure if that is the intention of writing "100% Grated Parmesan" then that piece of "creative genius" came from way on high in the corporation that is Kraft.

                1. re: queueueuq

                  That looks like a slightly older version maybe?

                  1. re: ttoommyy

                    I think they mean "it's a real can".