The Cheese with the Paper Between the Slices

Note: A good 50% of this story is true. 

The date is the mid-40s. Probably. Mrs. Elvira Jones returns from the market and is faced with every housewives' nightmare: the cheese that the nice man sliced for her at the deli counter has melted into a sweaty blob. Mrs. Jones sighs sadly. She would now spend hours with a small cheese-separating spatula especially designed to delicately render asunder the hell that humidity hath wrought.

Cheese separation has been a long-standing problem for Americans. This video, taken sometime in the 1800s, as the character's appearance and demeanor would suggest, illustrates how they had to use crackers to separate cheese slices. How horrible that must have been.

Mrs. Jones had done her best to avoid this painful circumstance. She had rushed home, ignoring her neighbor's cheerful attempts to engage with a slightly panicked: “Can't chat. Cheese!” But she was too late. A long night of cheese separation lay ahead. She set stoically to her task.

Imagine housewives' relief just a few years later when they discovered the new cheese packaging created by Victor Dorman that would free them from the tyranny of cheese surgery forever.

Victor Dorman's father Nathan owned a cheese delivery business that was founded in 1896. With a heavy Lithuanian accent, he passed through the streets of New York, yelling “A ton of cheese! Who wants a ton of cheese?” No one ever responded.

Eventually, Mr. Dorman realized that his customers were not going to come to him, and that selling bulk cheese was best done through the proper channels: Delis, restaurants, cheese-wrestling establishments, corner markets and eventually supermarkets became his clients and the Dorman Cheese Co was well on its way.

Born in 1915, Victor Dorman grew up in Brooklyn. During this time, he served in the navy, ate sausages, and read books. He tied his own shoes thousands of times, and once stepped on a nail that miraculously pierced his shoe's sole but did not break the skin. He graduated from college, envied successful people, and celebrated his birthday every year by eating a clementine, in honor of his grandmother whose name the fruit shared.

Throughout this time, he lived in anticipation of taking over his father's business, Dorman Cheese Co. “When I run things,” he probably said, “there are going to be some changes around here!”

And he was right.

Dorman Cheese Co. specialized in selling bulk cheese. Victor almost certainly watched as both vendors and customers struggled to separate slices using all manner of techniques. Many used the aforementioned cheese spatula or similar gadgets that did not solve the problem. Others just used their hands. Nicknamed “cheese peelers,” these folks were considered disgusting and unsanitary and no one went to their picnics.

A collectible statuette available in the 1940s, or around that time, entitled "Filthy cheese peelers!"

A collectible statuette available in the 1940s, or around that time, entitled "Filthy cheese peelers!"

Victor Dorman figured they had a real problem. He most certainly pondered solutions. After his death, his family discovered blueprints for failed contraptions at the bottom of a drawer of filed taxes dating back to 1969. One ridiculous example involved dried seahorses, another a vertical guillotine that was used only once with horrible results.

Then in the early 1950s or late 1940s or some other time, Victor and his Cheese Co. worked with a machine company to develop what would become the complicated machinery that would alter the course of cheese packaging.

Form Mr. Dorman's obituary in he New York Times:

“. . .the United States Slicing Machine Company developed the interleaver -- a machine that cut a slice of cheese, placed it on a conveyor belt and then, with mechanical fingers, laid down 'what we called parchment -- some kind of paper,' Neil Dorman, who served as vice president for administration and finance at Dorman Cheese Co] said.

'My father and his brother, Louis, were the first to do that,' he said. 'They did it first with Muenster, because it tends to stick together.'"

Mechanical fingers!

There are three patents for interleaving machines that explain in detail (I am sure) the inventors' creative solutions for this frustrating problem. My guess is that the first patent below, issued in 1954, is the one Dorman Cheese Co. used.

So while the machine took care of the practical tasks, it was up to Victor to let consumers know what now set his product apart.

His trademarked slogan said it all: "The Cheese With the Paper Between the Slices."

The jingle that ran in a Dorman's Cheese Ad in the 1970s went:

Get yourself a package of natural goodness
Dorman's Endico cheese
From Wisconsin 100% grade A
Grade A cheese the old fashioned way

Dorman's Dorman's
Moo moo moo moo moo moo-moo mooooooo
No processing or flavoring
Nothing artificial

Get yourself a package of natural goodness
Dorman's Endico Cheeeeeeeese!

The cheese with the paper between the slices!

The lone review of this jingle at the reads: “This jingle is repetitive and boring. Too many moos.”

Though that trademark has sadly expired, interest in cheese paper continues. A Facebook group exists that is just waiting for its first post.

Hats off to packaging innovator Victor Dorman!


HIGHLY recommended reading on a slightly related topic: A HISTORY OF INDIVIDUALLY WRAPPED PROCESS CHEESE SLICES

An excerpt:

“In the late 40s, there were a number of cheese processors selling a large volume of five pound loaf for use in either direct retail outlets or for slicing operations that sliced and packaged for retail outlets. This calm world was upset by the explosive force of a wonderful idea - Kraft deluxe slices. These were process cheese formed and packaged in one continuous operation from hot cheese to an item that looked like slices. Apparently the consumer neither knew nor cared that these so-called slices were not actually sliced off a loaf.“