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American Cheese, Biriyani's Origins, and More Long Reads

Five food-inspired stories to dive into this weekend

Brenna Houck is a Cities Manager for the Eater network. She previously edited Eater Detroit and reported for Eater. You can follow her on the internet at @brennahouck.

It’s destined to be an oppressively hot weekend across the U.S. No doubt this will drive many a home cook into the backyard to hover over their grills flipping burger patties over controlled flame. A good portion of these burgers will also be accompanied by cheese. Perhaps it will be slice of sharp cheddar or, more likely, an individual wrapped slice of melty, laminated American cheese.

In this week’s long reads, a writer explores the prescribed recipe for the bright yellow processed cheese that's essential to so many queso dips, cheeseburgers, and macaroni recipes. Another delves into the origins of biriyani, exploring the many recipes that define the dish throughout the Middle East and Southeast Asia. Meanwhile, writer Jess Zimmerman discusses her complicated relationship with food. Here now are five excellent long reads to enjoy (preferably in an air-conditioned room) this weekend.

Hunger Makes Me


The low-maintenance woman, the ideal woman, has no appetite. This is not to say that she refuses food, sex, romance, emotional effort; to refuse is petulant, which is ironically more demanding. The woman without appetite politely finishes what’s on her plate, and declines seconds. She is satisfied and satisfiable.

The secret to satiation, to satisfaction, was not to meet or even acknowledge your needs, but to curtail them. We learn the same lesson about our emotional hunger: Want less, and you will always have enough.

Fromage Blanc Is the Secret Weapon of America’s Pastry Chefs


Fromage blanc has lately been acquiring fans at restaurants across the country, finding its way onto dessert menus at places like Blackbird in Chicago, Proof Bakery in Los Angeles, and Benoit in New York. The cheese is made by heating up milk at a low temperature (in contrast to yogurt, which is made at very high temperatures), adding specific cultures, and — a few hours later — draining out (either partially or fully) the curds. The end result is a sour, smooth product with infinite uses — the most common in France being topped with fruit or jam for dessert.

From Iran to India: The Journey and Evolution of Biriyani


In present day Kerala for instance, one encounters the Malabar/Mopla biriyani. At times it substitutes meat and chicken in favour of fish or prawn. The spicing is stronger here and its proponents do not miss the aromatic symphony associated with the Hyderabadi product.

In far off West Bengal, the Dhakai version of the dish from the Bangladeshi capital is no less seductive. It is not unreasonable to suggest that the biriyani could have traversed the sea route to reach this port city, which was once ruled by nawabs (Mughal princes).

And along the west coast, the milder Bohri biriyani has many die hard patrons.

What Is American Cheese, Anyway?

Serious Eats

Don't get me wrong. Not every burger or grilled cheese I eat is made with American cheese, and there are times when I'm happy with a slab of sharp cheddar, a slice of Comté, or a crumble of Roquefort on top. But if I had to pick one cheese to stock in my burger joint, you're damn right it's gonna be American. No other cheese in the world can touch its meltability or goo factor, and that's really what it's there for: texture. If I've taken the time to select and grind some great beef, I want that beef flavor to shine, not get covered up by a powerful cheese that would fare better on a cheese plate.

The greatest burgers I've ever eaten are well-seared patties of loose ground beef, bound together with nothing but a lot of hope and a little American cheese.

You Don’t Need a Restaurant Empire to Be a Successful Chef


So what makes a chef/owner decide to keep things small? Their success depends on serving a community, having a clear vision, and offering perceived value in their genre — be it fine dining, bistro fare, or something else. Sometimes, operators run a single restaurant because attempts to open more than one have failed. Other times, having one restaurant allows owners to more definitively pursue their original goals. As chef/owners calibrate this balance, one thing becomes clear: building a career on a single restaurant can be precarious. Meet three who are holding steady against the fast-casual current — and one team that's finally taking the plunge.

All Long Reads Coverage [E]

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