Dirty little secrets. None of us are completely immune. We all have them – pesky yet irresistible traits or habits or desires we try to hide from everyone except ourselves. Some of us even attempt to shield the truth from the person staring back at us in the mirror. We justify our behavior. It isn’t hurting anyone. I’ll quit soon. The jeans must have shrunk in the wash. It looks more blond than gray. I’ll work out tomorrow. Just five more minutes. One more potato chip and I’ll be done. For good. For sure. Forever.
Our dirty little secrets are as unique as each of us. They come in various shapes, sizes and colors. Mine is a two-pound brick of artificially colored orange satisfaction, although I’ve cavorted with similar stuff in a can or jar.
Before releasing my secret for the world to taste, I feel the need to justify. I eat healthy. I cook healthy. I prefer natural ingredients and wholesome foods. I enjoy fresh produce and serve broccoli on a regular basis. It is one of my favorite vegetables. Especially when topped with…
Pasteurized prepared cheese product. There, I said it. I love cheese that isn’t exactly cheese.
Understanding what is and isn’t cheese may seem complicated, but the information is all on the label. When the label says “cheese,” plain and simple, you’ve got an item made from actual dairy products, like milk. One step down on the ladder of wholesomeness sits pasteurized process cheese, which, according to the Food and Drug Administration, is mostly cheese with minimal optional ingredients. One rung further removed, pasteurized process cheese food also wields a complex definition courtesy of the FDA. A few levels below this you’ll find – my favorite – pasteurized prepared cheese product. It doesn’t even warrant an FDA definition and apparently has made the transition from food to product. A little scary, I know.
But it tastes so good.
My introduction to PPCP occurred during my high school years. I was hanging out at a friend’s house and she offered me my first slice. I hesitated. My mom grew up on a farm and only served bona fide cheese. I wasn’t sure she’d want me exploring the likes of PPCP or any sort of cheese product outside the dairy aisle. But I was a rebellious teen and the orange glow of the creamy chunk was steeped in temptation. I thought I’d take a tiny nibble – not really eat it, but just taste it. Three nibbles later, I was hooked. I’ve pretty much been a regular user ever since. Technically, cheese product is not an addictive substance, but I wouldn’t want to live without it.
A number of characteristics (beyond the orange glow) make PPCP appealing – and worthy of being my dirty little secret. The most important, of course, is the meltiness factor. Nothing melts like prepared cheese product. It’s ooey and gooey, smooth and creamy, and flows down and around broccoli or a baked potato like no cheddar ever could. It plays well with others, mixing amicably with sour cream, salsa, canned cream of mushroom (another dirty little secret) and even real cheese. It’s a welcome addition to soups, sauces, grilled sandwiches and even tastes good on a cracker.
It may not possess a standard of identity under the FDA, but pasteurized prepared cheese product does have a spot in my fridge – hidden in the back behind the ketchup and mustard. Now that I’ve shared the truth about my highly refined tastes and culinary expertise with cheese (product), I’d be grateful if you kept this information confidential. (We can consider it our little secret.)
(Jill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, playwright and author of “The Do-It-Yourselfer’s Guide to Self-Syndication” You can read more columns at the Slices of Life page on Facebook.)