When I was a kid, one of my favorite things that my sister made for me was broccoli and cheese. I was too young to remember, but my mother and sister assure me that I used to always request this dish while referring to broccoli as “little trees.” What I do remember is that I preferred the softer tops of the trees more than the hard stalks at the bottom. Also, the cheese sticks better to the crowns so that was an added bonus. I think the “cheese” at the time was Velveeta, that bizarre yellow-orange stuff in a box that doesn’t have to be refrigerated because it’s not actually cheese at all, just a mixture of preservatives. But it was a perfect way to disguise “veggies” so that little American kids would actually eat them.
Philippe makes an adult version of this with real ingredients and it’s delicious. And when he passes the boxed cheese in the store he still makes a wincing sound as though in actual physical pain. Having not had processed food in so long, this would likely be the case if we were to ever consume any of the stuff so we just pass by it, in horrified fascination. Once, while in the grocery, I pointed out a can of SPAM and mentioned that I used to have it fried on sandwiches. He winced again, and asked what it’s made from. I told him nobody really knows, and that’s why it’s so weird. As a kid, I was convinced it was unicorn meat, which was equal parts disgusting and magically delicious!
It’s strange to grow up eating things that as a sensible adult you wouldn’t possibly consume anymore. All the flavors of my childhood are really just a distant memory. I occasionally wonder what it would be like to sample some of those foods I used to eat. Would it bring back memories so wonderful it’s worth risking the painful indigestion? Probably not. I think most of it tastes better locked in my imagination. I’m a fan of real food these days, so those American food stuff inventions are no longer on the menu. But in those quiet moments, I think back to that time when garishly colored lukewarm cheese was simply the coolest thing on the planet. Provided, of course, it was served on top of a few little trees.
About the Doodlewash
M. Graham Watercolors: Gamboge, Permanent Green Pale, Burnt Sienna, and Ultramarine Blue. Sennelier: Olive Green. Lamy Safari Al Star pen with Platinum Carbon black ink in a 5″ x 8″ 140 lb. (300 gsm) Pentalic Aqua Journal.