that measly half slice on the filet-o-fish

When I’m stressed, I go for comfort food, which usually means fast food.

While I’m normally not a big fan of McDonald’s, I do like their fish burgers. Even when they only use half a slice of cheese. Wait, what? I could’ve sworn the Filet-o-Fish used to have a full slice of American cheese, but according to the internet, the half slice is a thing and has been for a while. Huh. Oh well, it’s still tasty. Or rather, it hits the spot. Although more cheese would’ve made it better. ‘Cause cheese makes everything better.

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grilled cheese for the win

There’s a new restaurant in town and it is beyond amazing. Right next door to CinnaSwirl and actually sharing the same address is Co. Cheese, another sign that Americans are taking over this city. But instead of that being an apocalyptic statement, it’s a glorious one (although maybe not for the traditionalists). Co. Cheese is a sign that not all Americans are English teachers, we don’t eat McDonald’s all the time, and lowbrow food can be darn good food.

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Co. Cheese is a grilled cheese restaurant. Oh yes. But it’s not just cheese, bread, and butter; it’s got options. Back when I was in New York, there was the whole gourmet simple food thing going on, like specialty hot dogs, fancy mac and cheese, et cetera. In a city like New York, known for both the best pizza on the planet and dollar cheese slices, it made perfect sense and I didn’t think that much of it. In Shanghai, where it’s a struggle to find decent comfort food, and where you’re usually stuck deciding between the fancy schmancy restaurant with food flown in straight from France (with its associated prices) or the somewhat sketchy place on the corner with its ten-kuai noodles in a plastic-lined bowl, a proper grilled cheese sandwich is like ambrosia not meant for mere mortals.

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At first the thought of a grilled cheese restaurant was like “those crazy expats,” but upon first bite of a brie, avocado, ham, pear, and arugula grilled cheese sandwich from Co. Cheese, I was in heaven. And instantly I felt three times more American, remembering all those grilled cheese sandwiches I used to make with Colby-Jack on sliced sourdough bread. Let’s face it, as simple as the grilled cheese sandwich is, there are probably a million ways to make one: In a toaster oven, on the stove, with an iron? Kraft Singles, a mix of cheeses, shredded or sliced? White bread, whole wheat, sourdough? Which sides get buttered? Any toppings or tomato soup to dip it in?

There’s just something so great and democratic about a grilled cheese sandwich. Grilled cheese sandwiches are for everyone, and everyone loves ’em. Co. Cheese steps things up a notch by offering a wide range (I need to try the mac and cheese one next) so it’s beyond the standard grilled cheese that I could make at home. But even if it were just cheese, bread, and butter, being that this is Shanghai, where you have to go to specialty or import shops for good cheese and bread, Co. Cheese is greatly appreciated and fills a niche. It’s simple lowbrow food, but it’s so darn American, so darn appreciated, and so darn good.

Co. Cheese Melt Bar
32 East Yuyuan Road
Jing’an District, Shanghai

tutorial: frito pie

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, so I’m going to start up again with a fun one.

Is it really necessary to have a tutorial for Frito pies? Most would say no, unless you’re not from Texas, at which point, yes, you do need a tutorial. In New York, people look at you with eyebrows raised and an expression somewhere between disgust, horror, and confusion if you mention a Frito pie. They usually have the same expression after I explain what a Frito pie is. But they’re really yummy! It’s a staple dish!

So here we go. There are three main ingredients: Frito chips, chili (preferably with no beans … but whatever floats your boat), and shredded cheese (I usually go with plain ol’ cheddar).

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1. Get yourself a bowl. Really any bowl will do as long as it’s big enough for all the yummy goodness that is to come.

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2. Open the bag of Fritos. Pour some of those corn chips into bowl. Oh, and as a side note: If you’re in Texas, enjoy the low price and ease of obtaining Fritos, because there’s only one grocery store in my area that carries them and a bag cost me $3.50!

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3. Open the can of chili, heat it up on the stove, and pour some of it over the Fritos. Well, I suppose you should have had the chili on the stove before you even got out the bowl … but stop criticizing me! I usually go with Hormel’s no beans chili because (being from Texas) beans do not belong in chili and there’s no Wolf brand chili up here and I’ve never been good at making my own chili.

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4. Open the bag of shredded cheese. Grab a handful of it and sprinkle it oh so gingerly over the chili-covered Fritos.

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5. Get yourself a fork. Plunge that fork into the concoction, stir it up a bit, and use that fork to stuff your face with Frito pie.

It’s not really healthy, and I make no recommendations in regards to feeding it regularly to children. Everything in moderation. I merely say that it’s yummy, it’s easy, and it’s cheap (except in certain states like New York where cans of chili and bags of Fritos and bowls, shredded cheese, forks, and life cost more than they should). It’s one of those foods that just makes you happy. Maybe it’s because I grew up eating Frito pies so it’s kind of a nostalgic thing, but anyway, I really like ’em.

The end! I hope you’ve been enlightened.

[NOTE: This post originally appeared on a now-deleted blog and is reposted here for my own sake.]

really non-mexican tacos

I’ve been fairly busy lately (and still sick) so I haven’t been very crafty and I haven’t been making much food either. For instance, my lunch today consisted of crackers and juice. But I actually put a bit of effort into tonight’s dinner! I basically survived college by eating everything in a tortilla since I can’t really cook. Usually my meals involve simple reheating, a box, or a can. Eh.

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I made myself some soft tacos with chicken sausage, mashed potatoes, corn, and shredded mozzarella. They were delicious. My roomies think I’m weird and I’m sure other people out there are wrinkling their noses at me, but hey – I never said I was normal!

If you’re thinking: Where are the fruits and veggies? Well, the honest answer is that there are none. Nutrition-wise, I’m horrible. Not a big fan of healthy things. By no means am I suggesting that this would be a well-rounded meal for someone (unless you had a side of veggies). As one of my roommates put it, for me, the food pyramid is more of an hourglass shape, heavy on the carbs and sugar and sparse on everything else. I should probably get my cholesterol tested.

[NOTE: This post originally appeared on a now-deleted blog and is reposted here for my own sake.]