The Melting Pot: Cheese, Chowder and Gumbo

Cheese, Gumbo and Chowder

Let us consider cheese for a moment. I happen to love cheese. I will put in on damn near anything. It is often how I make myself eat my vegetables. One of the best things about it is how it melts and drips into the cracks and crevices of the food you put it on. If you were to put it on everything on your plate (yes, let’s do!), they would all take on a similar look and color (cheddar!) and become relatively indistinguishable from each other.

This homogeneity is good in this case. It’s delicious, in fact (no biases here). But if you are trying to maintain the separate identity and integrity of all the parts in the meal, then cheese is not your guy. Cheese is not sturdy enough to withstand the heat of the cooking process without changing form into something he was not before. Cheese needs to keep cool in order to maintain himself. Even if we are only talking about mixing different cheeses together, at the end they will all have blended together to one uniform color and consistency. (Cheddar!)

Perhaps instead we might choose to make a gumbo. I’ve never made a gumbo, but from what I have seen and read, the parts are made of sturdier stuff. They are, of course, affected by the cooking process. Maybe they are softened a little; take on a bit of a different flavor. But, you can see that they keep their original identities throughout the heat fluctuations and the simmering that takes place. All of the ingredients in the gumbo are equally important, but they are their own selves. They are separate, but equal.


Perhaps we should make chowder instead. Somewhere in between a cheese sauce and a gumbo, chowder has distinct parts that maintain their integrity and individual identity mixed with a thicker broth that is made up of some of the ingredients that have been added, but adds a little something special of its own. There is more of an emphasis on the blurring of boundaries between the separate parts so that they become part of the whole while still they are recognizably themselves.

Of course, whatever the meal, we can all take part in breaking bread together. I think we can all take a lesson from the research that shows that families that eat dinner together regularly are stronger with demonstrable improvement in children’s school success. If we sit together for food and conversation, we build relationships, camaraderie, and we improve ourselves and each other.

What could possibly be wrong with that?

Let’s have lunch. I’m hungry.

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. liz
    Feb 24, 2011 @ 12:56:42

    Ah cheese . . . sometimes I do miss it especially since reading this. I have been Vegan for 14 months and every once in a while a craving still slips in.


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