Gee whiz is an old-fashioned Americanism, what is known as a minced oath. We tend to be more explicit in our swearing these days, but here is a link to an entertaining list of minced oaths. The reason why I share this dreadfully important insight will (I hope) become clear shortly.
My mother was not much of a cook, bless her heart. I recall only two dishes that she made, when we were growing up, that were “fancy”. One was a cheddar and crab meat dip that was kept warm in a chafing dish; the only time the chafing dish ever appeared. This hors d’ouvre was reserved for adult, New Year’s Eve-type cocktail parties. We could each have a taste before being sent off to child land and if we were lucky there might be some residue to scrape out in the morning. It was gooey, good and very rich.
The other dish, which was made for us, was also cheesy and rich. Welsh rarebit. OMG, we loved it! It too was a special occasion food; that is, when we had Welsh ‘rabbit’, as we called it, supper became a special occasion. Oh my, we licked those plates clean. On a rare (oh, dear) family trip to Williamsburg, Virginia, we were thrilled to have rarebit in the colonial tavern. It was heady, cheesy stuff. It may actually have been a little ‘heady’ for us kids, since it is traditionally made with ale.
While he was researching Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us, Michael Moss interviewed hundreds of people ‘who have been closely associated with advancing or critiquing the activities of the processed food industry.‘ (pp. 353) One man, Al Clausi, was responsible (with his team) for the development of two of the most iconic processed foods of the 1950’s: Tang and Jello Instant Pudding. (pp. 47-59) These are great stories, in a great book.
I’d like to share the story of another man whom Moss interviewed. His name was Dean Southworth and as a food scientist,
“… he was part of the team that created Cheez Whiz, in the early 1950’s. The mission had been to come up with a speedy alternative to the cheese sauce used in making Welsh rarebit, a popular, but laborious dish… It took them a year and a half… to get the flavor right… Southworth and his wife, Betty, became life-long fans and made [eating] it part of their daily routine… So it was with considerable alarm that he turned to his wife one evening in 2001, having just sampled a jar of Cheez Whiz… and said ‘Holy God, it tastes like axle grease!… [He] looked at the label and said ‘What the hell did they do?’
… Not only was cheese no longer prominently listed as an ingredient, it wasn’t listed at all.”