I HATE WET CHEESE

It  was time to make food for the girls, and for some reason broccoli-cheese soup sounded good. Unfortunately, I haven’t found my favorite cookbook in my unpacking (still doing so), and had to rely in AllRecipes.com. Scrolled through about a dozen recipes and found the one that was closest to mine, went shopping, and started cooking.

One of the things I’m enjoying about this gig is getting to cook a couple of times a week, and this day was no exception. My body and heart hit the kitchen and started throwing things together; the girls got excited when the smells started to waft upstairs and started to pour into the kitchen to see what was going on. All of them were excited about my decision to make soup.

I thought back to friends of mine back in Oklahoma City who own a beautiful home on Wysteria Drive (yup, Wysteria Drive) in Gallardia. Dorothy doesn’t cook, and the kitchen was only added to the house for resale value. There’s never anything in the freezer or refrigerator, and the oven has never been used. They eat at the country club every single night. Over the years, I’ve thought about how sad it is that Dorothy has never experiened the joy of feeling the wooshy dough of a homemade bread between her fingers or the satisfaction of beating the hell out of it and calling it “kneading,” or experiencing the smells of food filling the house and bringing bodies into the kitchen to check out her creations. I’ve always felt that the kitchen of a home is the real living room. No matter how formal the party, people seem to end up congregating in the kitchen and snapping up samples as they’re being completed. And my mind went back to the years when Abbi’s friends (sometimes up to 30 at a time) spent weekends at the house “helping” me cook and bake. There are still kids who would walk into my home and ask me to fix them a baked potato with cheese and bacon. I miss those days, and having this small house of 17 brings that back in a small way.  These aren’t “my” kids, but they’re kids, and I’m able to create a home away from home for them.

Back to the kitchen and the broccoli-cheese soup.

The roux was made, the ingredients were doing their thing, and the experimental tasting began.  The broth, onions I’d sweated, half & half and the required pound of cheese were melted together and I took my first sample. And immediately grabbed a Coke to get the taste and feel out of my mouth. There may be nothing worse than relatively cold, wet, melting cheese. Even the texture was repulsive. At that moment, I remembered why I never order broccoli-cheese soup, even though it always sounds really good.

I’m funny about food. I’m big on using all the senses, but texture is at the top of the list of priorities. And appearance.

Lentil soup is out of the question. Green and wet aren’t going to happen. Can’t eat tomato soup — red should stay solid. Tomatoes should be sliced or at least there should be visible chunks in pasta sauce or vegetable soup, but totally liquid red — can’t get past it. And mushroom soup? That yucky brown color coupled with squishy diced mushrooms pretty much puts my appetite into a tail spin.

I’m a taco fan because you’ve got your crunchy, cheesy and veggie food groups with a touch of heat from the sauce. Now, that’s real food. I’m big on the crunchy food group. I like my veggies sauteed or grilled with a little bite to them, and my pasta al dente. A little “under the tooth.”

Both Mexican and Italian lasagnas work, as well as most other Mexican and Italian dishes, even without the crunchy food group, because the squishy food group is good, too. You’ve got your meat, textured tomatoes in the sauce, beans (Mex) or veggies  (Italian), either pasta noodles or tortillas for added texture, and lots of gooey, hot, bubbly cheese — sometimes, even crunch around the sides and brown and crispy on the top if it’s been put under a broiler for a few minutes. There’s nothing like the crunchy cheese around a good grilled cheese sandwich. But wet cheese? Yuk. Double Yuk. Bad dream Yuk.

I love a good Italian Sausage soup. Lots of veggies, some carbs, I use soy protein crumbles instead of meat (higher in protein, low in fat, and tastes the same as meat when cooked in a sauce) and plenty of spinach to add color, flavor and iron for the girls who don’t know how to take care of themselves in the food category.

I’m lucky at this house. No gluten-free/lactose-intolerant, semi-Kosher, walnut/avocado/blueberry allergies, vegetarians and vegans. OK, I’ve got one Pescatarian (but she’s recently converted, so I don’t think it will last long.) These are “throw food at us and we’re good to go,” girls. I’m free to create as I choose. And since the last house director put out chips and dip for dinner, they’re thrilled to have anything that resembles real food.

And chili….what more could a girl ask for? Lots of chunky tomato base, kidney/chili/black beans, some corn, lots of spices and crunchy corn bread filled with corn and jalapenos. Good stuff.

And back to cheese. I love it cooked, on sandwiches, in fondues, in casseroles where it’s cooked and has a texture to it, but that one taste of not-yet hot, wet, slimy soup is more than I could take.

SO, I did what any self-respecting texture/taste/sight eater would do — added another two pounds of cheese and some potato flakes to add body to the wet mass that refused to thicken. With a can of High-Octane Coke to buffer the taste, I sampled it a couple more time — but never without the back-up to erase the taste/texture.

The girls are still eating it (I make enough for them to eat for a couple of days and take to work with them), and telling me how great it is, but I can’t get through that first repulsive taste to scoop it out of the pan, nuke it and eat it.

But the upside is that my 17 new charges are happy to have homemade food, one of their vegetarian boyfriends comes over from time to time when he knows I’ve made chili or something else with the soy based protein,they take pictures of my food to send to friends in the other sororities on campus, and I get my fix on cooking, baking, spoiling, and being more a “mom” than I could be in houses with chefs who viewed even my pie nights as an intrusion on their territory.

On this Sunday morning, my baby girls are eating lunch from a fully-stockied kitchen along with their broccoli-cheese soup and are happy as little clams.

Me? I’m headed to Del Taco for a couple of tacos and a High-Octane Coke.

More this week — an update on Sophie and one on me.

Until then, be careful out there. You’re important to me.