Archive for Cheese

Classics in American Snack Food

Posted in Entertainment, Food, Life, Uncategorized, Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 20, 2012 by urbannight

Velveeta is not a cheese I like.  Unless having a grilled cheese sandwich or making some kind of cheese dip for Mexican food.  In those cases, it is the only cheese to use.

Despite the fact that the info sheet placed in the bathrooms at work, for bathroom reading (yes, my workplace provides bathroom reading called “The Bottom Line”), says it didn’t make an appearance in American homes until 1928, it was actually invented in 1918 inNew York and sold through the Monroe Cheese Company.  I did not know that it is a variety of American cheese that is smother and softer, more velvety, hence the name Velveeta. 

I always thought of Velveeta as the Spam (oddly enough, I’m not addressing Spam today) of the cheese world. But I hate American cheese even more and won’t use it for anything.  Although I must admit my roommate can make a fairly good grilled cheese sandwich out of it.  So I will amend my statement and call American cheese the Spam of the cheese world.  Even if that isn’t actually an accurate a statement it is how I feel about it. 

 I find it very strange that it was originally recommended to be served on a toasted sandwich of peanut butter and sweet pickle relish.  Three items I would NEVER put together.    Was the test group that came up with that idea full of pregnant ladies?  I have to wonder.

I felt the need to look this up because I thought the 1928 date was incorrect.  Like I mentioned, it first came out in 1918, was spun off into its own company in 1923, and then was sold to Kraft in 1927.

Jell-o was created by a cough syrup maker in 1897.  I suppose he could have found a way to make it up into a form that was marketable and easy to make.  In the early 1900’s it was offered to immigrants on Ellis Island to welcome them toAmerica. 

This sounds really funny now.  But if you know a little bit about where it comes from it makes more sense.  Gelatin was a time consuming item to make.  It required hours of boiling bones, connective tissues, hooves, hide, and intestines to produce the gelatin that could be then flavored and put into moulds.  Even when it was sold in sheets, it still had to be purified before using.  So even that convenience still left it in the realm of the wealthy who could afford kitchen staff who could spend the day in making a fancy gelatin desert.  Imagine some of the poorer immigrants arriving on Ellis Island and being given a bowl of something only the wealthy could normally afford to eat.  Of course it would help give the image of America as a land of prosperity, flowing with milk and honey.

But even the date and inventor of Jell-o is incorrect.  Powdered gelatin was invented and patented in 1845 by Peter Cooper, the industrialist who built the first American Steam Locomotive.  The formula was purchased by Pearle Wait, the cough syrup maker (and carpenter, go figure) and his wife added flavorings to the mix and they renamed it Jell-o. 

Am I the only one who finds it interesting and strange that food products were being invented by people who were in industries that did not produce food?

Cracker Jack showed up in 1983 at the Chicago World’s Fair.  But it wasn’t perfected yet and clumped together (like a popcorn ball, I imagine).  It took until 1896 to find a way to keep the popcorn separate.  Toys didn’t show up until 1912.  Sailor Jack didn’t show up until 1918.  He was modeled on an 8 year old boy who died of pneumonia shortly after his image first appeared on the boxes.  The dog appeared at the same time and was also modeled on a real-life dog who died of old age. 

I have no issue with the dates on this product.  I just wondered if they still put prizes in the boxes.  I remember growing up when the prize was more important than the treat.  It is such a part of my childhood that the idea of Cracker Jack w/o a prize seems sacrilegious.    They do include something still, but usually a comic or other paper item because it is cheaper to produce and avoids having choking hazards in a box of candied treats.

Oreo turned out to be less interesting.  The only point of interest is that it was created in 1912 as competition for a cookie another company started making 4 years earlier.  Today we still have Oreo Cookies and the other cookie has disappeared into the mists of time.

Stuffed Portabella Mushrooms

Posted in Art, Education, Entertainment, Food, Life, Uncategorized, Work, Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 30, 2012 by urbannight

I have not tried these yet.  I intend to soon.  Possibly this weekend.  I was in the lunch room to heat up my soup when I over heard two women talking about it.  So I got nosey and asked how she made it.

Brush the round top of the mushroom with an Italian dressing.

Remove the gills from the mushrooms.

Saute garlic and spinach until wilted.  (I would say that if you got mushrooms with stalks you might chop the stalks and add to this part.  Green onion or just chives might be good to add as well.  And I’m a big fan of Cayenne so I might add a bit here as well.)

Drizzle a little Italian dressing over the stuffing and stir in, then stuff the mushroom caps.

Sprinkle a bit of cheese over the top.

Bake in over for 18 to 20 minutes at 375. 

It sounds lovely.  Crumbled bacon or minced scallops might also be good in it.

Once Upon a Hamburger

Posted in Food, Life with tags , , , , , , , on September 22, 2011 by urbannight
The Burgers Went Missing


Cheap hamburgers

Cheap crappy hamburgers.

 Cheap, crappy, warmed over, gas station hamburgers wrapped in foil gently aging under heat lamps.

Once upon a time these were the mainstay of long road trips when meal time rolls around and the nearest food joint is over an hour away.  They were the life saving ambrosia at 1:00 am when you’ve decided to drive through the night to cut out a hotel bill.

A thin slab of processed mystery meat a worrisome shade of grey and a plain old bun.  If you eat them too often you may get ill. But once in a while, under the right circumstances, they taste like the best thing on Earth.


Or they once did.


I slept late today.  I’ve been up until midnight or later all week long.  I wanted to squeeze every last second of sleep I could get this morning.  No time for making breakfast.


All I wanted, all I CRAVED was a crappy, foil wrapped, gas station hamburger.


No one had them anymore.


They had cheese burgers and strange potato things shaped like hot dogs.  They had crispy burrito things.  I’ve tried them before and don’t like them. It’s the strange, processed, mystery cheese they put in them.  I don’t like it.  The warming trays where the hamburgers used to sit are filled with breakfast biscuits with sausage, chicken or ham with cheese or egg and cheese. 


They have hamburgers in the cold section.  They make the break look fancier, put cheese on them, and are trying to make the meat look and sound more upscale.  But then you have to microwave it.


(Side note: if you are driving thought a state that does not tax groceries.  If you buy it cold and then heat it you do not get charged tax.  If you heat it first then buy it, you are charged tax.  Cold it is a grocery.  Heated it is fast food. Strange rule.)


I think that gas stations are trying to offer ‘trendier’ food in an effort to seem more upscale.  But they put cheese on EVERYTHING.


I like cheese.  I like it for itself.  I like to try different kinds of cheese.  I like it plain or on a cracker.  I do not like it on or in most foods.  And the strange cheese used in fast food is even worse.


You can’t find a classic, gas station burger.  At least not at the places I stopped this morning.  The type of burger that makes you think of Wimpy and makes you want to say, “I’ll gladly pay you tomorrow for a burger today” just for the amusement factor.  So many of the people working at gas stations are too young to recognize the quote anymore.


I did not get any of the alternatives.  I decided to skip it and mourn the passing of a cultural icon to convenient travel food.


My Experimental Kitchen. Cooking as Art.

Posted in Art, Books, Entertainment, Food, Life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 19, 2011 by urbannight

I love to cook. I love cookbooks. I love the glossy coffee table cookbooks where every dish has a picture. Cooking is part science and part art. Art for your tummy. It can be visual art. But it is more important that it is art for you taste buds.

I have to share the most WONDERFUL pasta dish I made tonight.

Chicken and Garlic Tortellini in a Tomato Pesto

Since I’m serving myself from the pot and dishing the leftovers into freezer bags for work you don’t get to see any pictures. Between cleaning, packing, and trying to move, I didn’t want to dirty an extra dish to take a picture.

(Sorry, I don’t use many measurements)

In a food processor add two tablespoons of basil, pine nuts (I used almonds today), some cheese (any hard white Italian type), red pepper flakes (you can skip this), onion, garlic, and olive oil, a bit of hot water (not much) will help it mix. You are balancing the rest of the stuff to the amount of basil you used. Run until mixed very well. Add one of the small cans of tomato sauce (5 oz). Blend well. Set aside.

Put one package of cheese and garlic tortellini in a pot to cook. Dice up two chicken breasts. Fry in a tablespoon of olive oil (use a large pot). Season with a bit of pepper, salt if you use it, and when half done add the some of the pine nuts (almonds) and finish cooking until chicken is done.

Add the tomato pesto sauce to the chicken to heat while the tortellini finishes. Once done, drain and add to the chicken and sauce. Toss well.

Makes 5 servings. I sprinkled a bit of cheese on top (not much, just to look pretty). I used a soft cheese for the topping. Another white Italian cheese.

I’m deliberately leaving out the exact type of cheese used because you should use your favorites rather than mine, or what is available, or what you have in your fridge. That’s what makes experimental cooking so fun.