Wednesday, January 27, 2010

American cheese and happiness: are they mutually exclusive? Discuss.

When I was in the hospital after having delivered Tommy, the nurses asked if I wanted a snack. I was starving and said I would gladly take the crackers and cheese they were offering. Now, I knew I wouldn't be receiving a gourmet snack. I was at the hospital, after all, so I wasn't expecting Brie on cracked wheat crackers or anything. I would have been satisfied with some Ritz and cheddar. Instead, I was filled with dismay when I beheld my treat: 5 Saltines and a slice of American cheese.

I am not a big fan of American cheese. In fact, I really don't think it merits the title of cheese. Its shiny, smooth exterior and filmy aftertaste literally leave a bad taste in my mouth. The only way it is in the least palatable, in my opinion, is if it is melted on a cheeseburger. And even then, I would far prefer my burger adorned with goat cheese or feta or even a slab of cheddar.

This morning when I arrived at my Meals on Wheels assignment and noticed today's offering featured Saltines, American cheese, some dried out carrot and celery slices, a cup of tomato soup and canned pears, I felt unaccountably sad.

This meal really disheartened me. My first instinct was to round up all the people on my route, herd them back to my house and whip up some hearty stew or coconut curry chicken soup and crusty bread, some warm, comforting food.

After a couple of people made approving remarks about their meals, I came to two conclusions: 1) Food has a disproportionately big influence on my mood and 2) Not all people share my views on eating (gasp!).

Yes, good food makes me happy, people. And making good food for people makes me even happier, especially if those people are likely to effusively praise my offerings. And when I say "good food" I don't just mean snobby, gourmet food. I appreciate trash as much as the next person. Twinkies? I don't buy them anymore because I devour the whole box in one sitting, and I cannot think of a trashier junk food than Twinkies, can you? I mean, the things don't even disintegrate.

But if I had the choice between Twinkies and something far more decadent and delicious like say, Napoleons from a French bakery, the Napoleons would win hands down. This is also my policy on food like chocolate. I'll eat Hershey's if I have to, but would far prefer Ferrero Rocher or Ghiradelli's. Why settle for mediocre food when you can have superb?

I wonder if I am not a bit obsessed. I just finished reading Julie and Julia and the biggest problem I had with the book was that the author and her husband regularly ate Domino's pizza. They live in NEW YORK and eat Domino's when they have access to so many far superior foods? I can't fathom it.

My philosophy with eating is if you are going to eat it, the food should taste good. Really good. Otherwise, why bother with all the work of masticating and swallowing and digesting? And it should be real (thus my American cheese aversion), not some chemical concoction created in a laboratory. And I'd much rather eat good, authentic food instead of some chain food meal. So, yes, I eschew Panda Express for the little hole in the wall in Chinatown that Bil and I love.

Obviously, there are things in my life that are way more important to me than good food (family and friends come to mind) but feasting on tasty meals is definitely in my top ten list of happiness promoters. What does that say about me? Probably that I am shallow, gluttonous and self-absorbed. I'm not sure, but I don't really care right now. I'm hungry and need to start making dinner: tortellini with pine nuts and prosciutto. Now, that's a happy prospect.

What makes you happy? Check out this week's Spin Cycle for more people's takes on happiness.


Sarah said...

I concur, hands down. When I met Matt, he introduced me to Merkt's cheddar cheese melted on fries. Seriously, he was sent from Heaven. I am not a gourmet cook by any means, but I know what I like and it should bring comfort, because like you said, what is the point otherwise?

Patty I would have gladly sent you Cheez Whiz in a can---disgusting? Yes. Better then an American cheese slice? Definitely.

Denise said...

Ok...I'll be over lickey split!!! OR faster...I'm in need of some full of taste food via Patty's Pantry!

B1L said...

This explains a lot about why we're married. I heartily concur with your worldview on food and how best to apply it. Can't wait for tortellini tonight!

Love, Bil

Hartley said...

Patty! While I am ordering acronyms (and trying to send them back) on my blog you are over here with gormet burgers? I am SO in the wrong place!

I am with you on the entire thing--especially the goat cheese.

I find that too many days at home eating "kid food" prompts me to need a real night out with my husband. I like to think that my taste buds are keeping my marriage strong (How else would we get regular date nights? LOL).

Thanks for sharing,

Amy Jane said...

Ok, here's what needs to happen. You need to come visit me and cook for me, m'kay? Anytime you're ready.

Sprite's Keeper said...

Oh, reading this right now is not good for my resolve not to touch the two remaining slices of the homemade pizza in our fridge. Must.Not.Go.To.KITCHEN.
If my daily meals were half as delightful sounding as yours are, I would never go out to dinner! A good meal makes me happy as well. John washing the dishes after is icing on the cake. You're linked!

Ginny Marie said...

My two best friends hate American cheese, and I, well, it! But it has to be from the deli counter, freshly sliced! Land 'O Lakes White American is the best! But the Meals on Wheels menu does sound very sad. I'm sure a lot of those people have a poor appetite, anyway, and that menu does not sound appetizing at all!

Kim said...

food is one of those truly funny things in life. everyone has their definite opions and yet almost everyone's opinion is different. such as, the thought of your goat cheese and pine nuts make me gag a little... but I love me some Kraft mac n cheese, a big 'ol greasy burger and ya, I'm ok with a slice of American. Forget the saltines, I'd rather have a club cracker, but still... my tastes aren't fancy. And as much as the thought of that goat cheese makes me want to gag, I willingly ate horse while in Kazakhstan and would gladly eat again!

Mrsbear said...

Yet another thing we share! I love food. I mean really love food. If I'm feeling down, a good meal or dessert will do wonders for my spirit. I eat junk of course, but I enjoy eating good, fresh food. Sadly, my dearest husband does not share my passion, although I have managed to get him hooked on chocolate and coffee. He's coming around. When we retire, I always tell him I want to do an eating tour of the US. The two of us in a Winnebago, eating our way across the country, I'd totally sell my house for that.

Susan said...

I call Wednesday Nights!
I love to eat good food- although my food isn't as fancy as yours :)
Our grocery bill is or one downfall- we don't go out to eat much, so we figure that extra money should go to good food to prepare at home.

Maureen@IslandRoar said...

Food is definitely linked to happiness, but it's all relative. After my sinus surgery last week, the nurse offered me saltines and graham crackers. I hadn't eaten in about 22 hours. They were the most delicious crackers I'd ever had.

Elizabeth Channel said...

Ever seen what American Cheese morphs into after falling off a cheap burger and lounging in the back of a stifling van for a few days?


I totally agree with your take on cheese.

Shellie said...

I couldn't even look at American cheese when I was a kid without getting a headache. The stuff is toxic. It's aptly named because I think that our whole society has palate problems. Why is there so much JUNK consumed in this country when the capability to eat much more delicious and healthy food is so much greater? It's a paradox. Ghirardelli, people, not Hershey's!