Sweetest thing someone said to me all week:

Topic: From Melanie

Recent quote about my cooking from a friend:

“Whenever I eat food you make I feel like I went out to dinner at a restaurant, but it’s free.”

Warms my damn heart…

Dinner tonight

Topic: From Melanie | Related topics: , , ,

Roasted garlic on toasted pieces of bread and a bunch of leftovers that turned into a pseudo lasagna. Can you get more comfort foody?!

Why American cheese is evil

Topic: From Melanie | Related topics: , ,

Real, yummy cheddar cheese

When I was growing up, the only cheese we had was your standard block of mild cheddar cheese. You know, real cheese. I would go to friends houses and they would have this weird and gross impostor cheese that was individually wrapped. (I think this contributed to my refusal to spend the night at friends houses. The risk for “fake cheese” as I called it was too high.) I never asked about it, probably because I grew up with some manners and didn’t want to be rude. (Thanks Mom!)

Fast forward to my early twenties and I am ordering a hamburger. I politely ask if they use “real” cheese, which  seems like a very straightforward question to me. They say yes, and then my burger comes out with fake cheese! This goes on for over a year before my then boyfriend explained that the “fake cheese” had a name. American cheese. All these years I had been asking if they used fake cheese, and no one bothered to tell me it had a flipping name! But at least I had a title for my nemesis.

I really, really hate American cheese. The smell makes me nauseous, the texture is awful, I could go on and on. The only good thing American cheese has done for me was to initiate a needed break up. It was our first trip to the store together, and he bought American cheese. I went home and really accessed the relationship. Upon reflection the guy was a raging alcoholic and kind of an asshole, but it could have taken years for me to notice that had it not been for the American cheese incident.

I have a new friend that doesn’t know anything about food, and it’s been really fun to feed him new food and expose him to stuff he’s never tried before. When we first started hanging out he told me that he didn’t really see the difference between American cheese and “real” cheese. He had grown up with American and it seemed natural to eat it. I bit my tongue and hoped that given enough time he would come around.

So last night we were having dinner and he said that he understood “the cheese thing.” He said that it drove him crazy how people mindlessly listen to the radio, when the music is terrible! Being a musician this is something that strikes a chord with him.  (See what I did there, musician, chord…!) Anyway, he said that people listen to the radio because they don’t know what great music is out there, and they have always just listened to top 40. He realized that it is the same with cheese, and food in general.

We do things the way we were raised and most of us never think about it. I know this was the case with me. The only reason I ever tried new food was because I wanted to impress a guy! Up until my early twenties I thought butter was only for Christmas and Thanksgiving, I only ate ranch dressing etc… It never occurred to me to wander in the supermarket and try couscous or an artichoke. It took an outside force to get me to loosen up and take a risk.

It may sound weird, but I am soooo proud that I helped someone come to a realization like that. It sounds small, but who knows what other areas that idea will manifest itself in! (I mean, he could one day claim something other than pizza as his favorite food. Crazy.) And even if that’s all that comes of it, if one less person eats “fake” cheese, I’m a happy girl.



The Quest for Sourdough in East Tennessee

Topic: From Melanie | Related topics: , , , , ,

As most of you know, I’m from Northern California, and now live in Knoxville Tennessee. Since I’ve moved here I’ve been really bothered by the lack of quality sourdough bread. I went through all the stages of grief.

  • Denial: I’m sure it’s here, I just haven’t been to the right store yet.
  • Anger: How the hell can a town of this size not have a single loaf of good sourdough?!?! No wonder the south lost the Civil War!
  • Bargaining: I mean, if I have to go to another town, that would be ok. There has to be some in East Tennessee somewhere, right?
  • Depression: What does it matter… I may as well start buying Sara Lee bread, life sucks anyway.
  • Acceptance: I guess it only makes sense that there is a cost to getting to eat hush puppies and fried green tomatoes. Sourdough bread must be that cost…

Then on Saturday at work, I finally learned the truth. It isn’t that Knoxvillians are just evil and refuse to make me the sourdough bread of my youth. They can’t. San Francisco style sourdough bread can only be made in SF. The yeast in the air is different, and with sourdough bread, the yeast in the air will make or break your dough.

I feel more at peace now that I know what’s really going on. Thank you to my boss, Vanessa, for letting me know. SF sourdough, like the sight of the Golden Gate bridge in the fog, or large groups of leather daddies singing show tunes can only be had in San Francisco. And maybe that’s what makes those things so special….

For more info on magical sourdough, check out this article from The Science of Cooking.

Grilled Cheese Hamburger?!?!

Topic: From Melanie | Related topics: , , , , , , , , , , ,

A friend of a friend told me about something he made the other day at work: A grilled cheese burger. What is that you ask? Well, it is two grilled cheese sandwiches that are used as the buns for a hamburger.

I know, right? Doesn’t that make you want to cry it sounds so totally over the top and wonderful? I understand that it is pushing the envelope, but to each his own. Personally, I have every intention of trying it at some point. I don’t think I could handle it on a regular basis, but I cannot live without having carnal knowledge of that meal.

Just sit and think about it for a little bit…. And if you live near me, and are man enough, lets plans a cookout in early spring and make this happen.

P.S. My friend John just told me about this burger that takes it even a step further at Vortex in Atlanta:

DOUBLE BYPASS BURGER
Twice as big as the Coronary Bypass (which is a half pound!) Topped with
two fried eggs, six slices of American cheese, and
eight slices of bacon, all served between the two
grilled cheese sandwiches that we use in place of
the regular hamburger buns.

(Thanks Eric for the original inspiration. You are a true hedonist.)

First week at the new bakery job!

Topic: From Melanie | Related topics: , , , , ,

So I started at the new bakery on Wednesday, and I effing LOVE it! I feel like I’m in culinary school, but better because I’m getting paid and it’s a super relaxed environment. I’m learning so much, and not the usual “just do this.” I’m learning why something is done a certain way, the other ways you could do it, the background. It’s like I’m in a baking Wikipedia every day!

Another great thing is the way my view of “work” is changing. It used to be that I came in, did what was expected of me and left. I didn’t think about food costs, or what I could do for the business. I’m sure part of it is how bad ass the owners are, but I also think that since I’ve begun thinking about owning my own place, I’m starting to think like an owner. So my work ethic is getting a lot better again. I want to get enough sleep so I can be on top of my game at work the next day. It may sound trivial, but I’m pretty excited about it. I have pride in my work, and that makes such a huge difference in my life.

Maybe this is what it feels like when you’re doing what you love…

Check out the pictures of my first professional baked bread! I’m so proud! :)

Superbowl food extravaganza!

Topic: From Melanie | Related topics: , , , , , , , , ,

So, my Dad asked me to cook the food for their Superbowl party today. I was really flattered, because for some reason it seemed like my family never wanted me to cook for them. (You should now that I am totally irrational sometimes and just assume everyone hates me.)

My Dad paid for the groceries (amazing!) and asked one thing: “Please don’t make anything, you know…. Weird…” So here is the menu for today:

  • Turkey Chili with white beans
  • Cornbread
  • veggie dip/platter
  • potato skins
  • jalapeno popper spread on french bread
  • some random dessert

I don’t really feel good about this… The chili and cornbread is great, but the rest involves so much mayonnaise and random things I’d never make on my own. Other people are going to eat it, and I really wish I could have made some better quality things.

And it’s not like I think people won’t like it. I know they will, but it’s not hard to make food people “like”. Throw in sour cream, cheddar and bacon and pretty much anyone on the planet will like it. That doesn’t mean it’s good though. It doesn’t mean the food has any integrity. (Also, I can’t believe I just wrote that last sentence. That sounds so effing pretentious!)

But, I’m gonna make it, and enjoy it. Not every meal can be what I want. And it’s gonna make my Dad happy, which is really the most important thing to me. Because he’s a wonderful amazing Dad…

Video: Family Story About Maple Syrup

Topic: From Melanie | Related topics: , ,

Sentimental ramblings about my family…. Good stuff, check it out.

Mark Twain …on life

Topic: From Melanie | Related topics: , ,

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
– Mark Twain

Why aren’t kids reciting this every morning, hands over their hearts? I wish someone had told me to explore, dream and discover when I was a kid. But that’s neither here nor there, because I know it now. And I believe in it soooo freaking much!

Try something new and scary. Risk working hard and failing. Attempt to make creme brulee even if you don’t know how. Start a website and talk about what you love. And something crazy will happen. You’ll feel better about yourself and your life, regardless of the outcome.

This week I’m gonna try a recipe that I really have no idea how to make. I don’t even have a reference to what it’s supposed to taste like… This is going out on a limb for me, but I think it’s gonna be fun. I think I’ll videotape it, if for no other reason than to show you I’m trying to practice what I preach. (Cooking isn’t the only place I’m doing this, but I figure you’re reading this because you’re interested in cooking, not my ridiculous personal life.)

If you do anything out on a limb-ish, find me on Facebook (The Hedonist Cook) and let me know. I’d love to hear about it….

xoxo, Mel

Just a Quick Message

Topic: From Melanie | Related topics: ,


Hooray for better video quality!