Friday, February 17, 2006

The "Cheese" Stands Alone, But Not the Bloggers

It's true. This package of individually wrapped "slices" of "cheese" made its way into our house. Cranky was all revved up about the Cheese Sandwich Wars, and came home with a variety of real cheeses and this junk.
We unwrapped one "single" and each took a bite out of it. The texture was like the skin that forms under the lid of a can of paint. The taste was not quite as bad as the fake cheese on an Egg McMuffin, but still highly industrial, sort of like the skin that forms under the lid of a can of paint. In a really bad color.
It went out into the trash the next morning.
But I thank Cranky for his participation and sense of cranky, pranky glee.
For a superb overview of this whole cheese-sandwich business, head over to Kalyn's Kitchen. I think Kalyn does a good job analyzing why the food blog community came together as a sort of cyber flashmob yesterday (well, most all of this week, actually), after a writer for Food & Wine magazine hurt some of our feelings. It's because we are a community.
In fact, I had planned to blog about the generosity and usefulness of this community, based on a recipe I got from Passionate Eater. Cranky made PE's Ma Po Tofu last night, varied slightly by the addition of some pork.
It's a simple recipe, but it uses one ingredient I had never tried, hot bean paste. It's not black bean paste; it's red and spicy. I learned this from communicating (community = communicate) with PE.
The dish came out fantastic!
I have eaten this in Chinese restaurants, but never even knew its Chinese name — it's usually listed on menus as something like "spicy tofu."
So. Big thanks to Passionate Eater. Big thanks to Kalyn. Big thanks to Cranky. And a big howdy-do to all of you, my mad, eatin' homies.


drbiggles said...


I wasn't done with the last post. Grrrr.

mrs d said...

That looks exactly like what Dave calls "Mabo Dofu" when he makes it, but then maybe he had a cold when he told me about it.

btw, I still have more cheese sannie to post, but I was waylaid by work yesterday. Would you believe I woke up early with what felt like a food bourne illness on the day I had to go in and take my food handler's exam?

Erin Eats said...

It reminds me of the skin that forms on chocolate pudding, not good.

cookiecrumb said...

Read faster, Biggles!
Mrs d: That's probably the right pronunciation. I don't think you pronounce tofu with a T in Chinese. What's yer food handling gig going to be? I thought you were a historian/dramaturge/stand-up comic... uh, novelist/cook/photographer-type thing.
Erin: Yep, just like that.

drbiggles said...

So much for foreplay, sheesh.

Mona said...

I totally missed Cheese day, but only because I wasn't ready for it! I didn't realize it was so soon. I'm a' gonna get on the sammich makin' and let y'all know when I'm done.
Love all this ode to cheese on your site. And I really love raclette.

mrs d said...

Silly cookiecrumb, you should know that the all/sorts/of/creative/freelance/jobs type thing doesn't pay squat.

Seriously, we be broke-ass, so I snagged some parttime work at our local gourmet foodie gift shop. Now I just have to prevent myself from blowing my hard-earned cash on that yummy employee discount.

Also, Chopper and I will be doing some personal chef giggy stuff this summer (we hope), so I need my card for that.

michelle said...

ew. no velveeta for me, thanks. big thanks to you too, for the laughs and the sense of community! now...must go make cheese sandwhich...

Jennifer said...

Well said...I stand with you folk any day.

Jennifer said...

You know, I wouldn't generally confess to this, but: I have a package of Kraft Singles in my refrigerator (they've been there for about a year or so), and I open one up and eat it every month or two, just because. Because I love, love, love cheese and sometimes a slice of paint-can-like cheese is just the thing I want. Can't explain it.

It might have something to do with the crackle of the wrapper, or the way the cheese doesn't so much melt in your mouth as kind of adhere to the top of it...

Think I'll have a slice now!

cookiecrumb said...

Biggles: Maybe I'm just more into the cuddlin' afterwards.
Mona: It ain't over. You'll still be seeing cheese sandwiches.
Mrs D: That's really cool. Pink Hawaiian salt, clever local chutneys, all-things-chocolate -- like that? (What was your answer for question #7 on the exam: "Are you now, or have you ever been, lactose-intolerant?" If you answer yes, do they make you take the workplace sensitivity seminar?)
Jennifer: Thank you for sharing. (I learned to say that at the sensitivity seminar.) Just call what you're doing "research," like about why those singles are still edible after a year. :D

kudzu said...

I was taught "doufu" (pronounced dow-fu, as in now-fu) when I was taking Chinese cooking lessons and the spicy prep method is usually listed as "ma po". Whichever, it's really good, esp. on a night like this.

Yikes! Somebody else sneaks Krafts Singles. I steal them from my grandchildren. I like the weird kind of waxy texture. Hey, at least they're not eating Velveeta. Cooks, that cheese looked definitely gross.

b'gina said...

You know, I don't know as I've ever eaten Velveeta in "cold blood." It's great for things where you need to melt cheese. Like melt a little Velveeta, then throw the good stuff in. Because V melts at a low temp, you can use it to carry other cheeses along, so they don't separate and turn into yellow grease and balls of rubber. :G:

And I love Kraft American Singles. Make a lunch meat ham and cheese on white bread with mayo, let it sit around for a few hours until it's warm, then, mm-mm good. ;+)))) Comes from taking those sammies to summer camp as a kid.

I hope people keep doing the cheese sandwich thing, because my last several days has been so crazy, I haven't had time for anything, much less cooking. We've been living on take out, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but I like my own cooking.

mrs d said...

Hah. No sensitivity seminar questions for me -- just tons about "The Danger Zone" (which prompts far too much bad 80s movie music in my head), and our new state rule about no bare-hand contact with ready-to-serve food. (Uhuh, like any restaurant is going to be able to comply with that.)

But yeah. Seriously cool products I get to sell. Pink salt included and the local chutneys are to die for. (And, shhhh, don't tell Chopper, but I'm snagging him the paella pan in the window for a belated birthday prezzie.)

Rose said...


It's pronounced "Ma po dofu" in mandarin.

Ma = like in baby crying "ma-ma"

Po = like the "paw" of a dog

do = like in "doe a dear"

fu = like in "foo fighters"

It is a very old traditional Sichuan dish. Although it is served EVERYWHERE in china today. Being from Sichuan, it's usually very very spicey. I love the play of textures between the crumbled meat and silky tofu. Perfect combination

Kalyn said...

I think I've only made one thing with velveeta in my life and it was quite tasty.

1 large block velveeta
2 cans chili without beans
1 can diced green chiles

Put in crock pot. Heat. Eat with tortilla chips.

Whew. Haven't made that for ** years.

You're great with the post titles by the way.

cookiecrumb said...

Rose! Thanks (once again) for your cultural perspective. Very useful. And now, I'm thinking maybe we didn't use as much red bean paste as we should have. I've always liked this dish; I just never realized I could make it at home so easily. Yay.
Kalyn: I believe I've made something shameful like that as well -- but like you, it must have been a long time ago and the memory is dim.
Mrs D: What's up with paella pans? Cranky and I got one just before Christmas, Monkey Gland just brought one home from Spain... This blogging thing is contagious.

mrs d said...

Blame our paella pan fixation on a trip to The Spanish Table while in Seattle. (Not that I'm getting him one of the big ones like they had... his will be eentsy, to go along with our eentsy kitchen. Huh. Maybe I should borrow that kiddie pot you put your chili in.)

MM said...

Sorry to be pedantic but it's actually Ma po dou fu if you are saying it in Mandarin. OK, going to stop being anal retentive now and just eat my lunch quietly.

cookiecrumb said...

No, MM, chime in! The more, the merrier.
Now if you could only tell us the tone pattern.

b'gina said...

Ma Po Dofu - I used to teach a Chinese cooking class and worked with a bunch of linguists in my day job. The linguists all just advised me to big one of the many transliterations and stick to it. :G: Whatever you call it, it tastes the same, i.e., zippy and good.

angelhair said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Passionate Eater said...

Wow, I just started catching up with the posts I've missed since my vacation, and was pleasantly surprised to see this! I'm so glad that you tried it, and it worked! The recipe is based on how my family makes it, so you may be able to find a better one from a professional recipe-person. I find that other people often use "cornstarch" too, to thicken any sauce that is excreted by the tofu.

Did you use firm or silken tofu?

Thank you Cookie Crumb, I loved your post--it warmed my heart.

cookiecrumb said...

Hi, PE: You are so gracious to respond! Really, we just loved the dish. Followed your recipe to the letter, except Cranky minced a tiny pork chop and fried it first (I think he got the directions off the bean paste label). It was "soft" (but not silken) tofu. So, thanks again.

Mike said...

Well, mabodofu is an ok spelling too. I lived in Japan for a number of years and that's what they call the dish there. So, take your pick I suppose, Japanese or Chinese pronunciation depending your preference for b's or p's. :P

cookiecrumb said...

Mike: Hey, a voice out in the wilderness! Thanks for your input.

2nd favorite said...

Ma2 po2 dou4 fu3
Po as in Edgar Allan
Dou a deer, a female deer.
Sorry, I know I am an anal bastard also.

cookiecrumb said...

2F: Yo, thanks. You anal bastard. Every little bit of knowledge helps. :D