The roll was called up yonder

Huge news flash, Feb. 21, 2008 — well, for me anyway. The Kraft company has stopped making Garlic Cheese Roll. A call to the Kraft consumer hotline confirmed that “not enough consumers were buying the product to justify continued production.” In other words, the passion of millions of people in one-fourth of the US for cheese with grits meant nothing to a company with hundreds of product lines. Social chaos is likely to ensue in the Sunbelt. What will Southerners serve at Christmas morning breakfast and wedding brunches. Did the company consult one single Southerner before they discontinued it?

It’s like a whole way of life coming to an end. First they came for the garlic cheese roll. Can whipped topping and mushroom soup be far behind? Without those basic ingredients, there could be no community cookbooks. I better dust off my resume.

If you reached this page looking for a substitute for Kraft Garlic Cheese roll, try this recipe I found on the Kraft chat boards. I modified it so the roll sizes match the Kraft 6-ounce roll.

Garlic Cheese Rolls

  • 1 1/2 pounds sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1/2 pound processed cheese product such as Velveeta
  • 3 ounces cream cheese
  • 1 teaspoon seasoned salt
  • Garlic powder to taste

Soften cheeses and mix all together well. Shape into six rolls and wrap securely in foil or plastic wrap.

Pig Candy, Seriously.

We’ve just prepared and eaten our annual country ham. We buy it in Giles County usually, and it’s nearly always a Bigham’s ham.

        We editors were sittin’ around talkin’ ham the other day, with our particular methods for scrubbing them, then soaking and boiling them. Our newest editor is from Virginia, where the

country ham 

         is different. She said, “You all talk about scrubbing and soaking a ham. We usually get Virginia hams, and

we don’t scrub or soak

        those.” But

Tennessee ham

    •  is covered with cure mixture that doesn’t seem like something you want to eat.

So you scrub it, then most recipes call for soaking and boiling. Here’s a recipe where the ham is cooked without soaking, just a good scrubbing. Seems like it would be salty — if you try it, let me know.

We do something different with hams, because our family is small, and our largest pot is a lobster pot. We take the ham to Todd’s Butcher Shop where Todd saws off the hock and saws the hock into usable pieces for bean soup. Then he cuts off three or four ham steaks to be thrown onto a hot grill or skillet on the nights when we don’t get home until 6:30. The now-small-enough ham-ette goes home and into the lobster pot to soak and boil.

    After its hot bath, we usually pack on a crust of brown sugar, dry mustard, black pepper and a little flour, then bake it for an hour or so. But this time, we rubbed it with rib rub and wrapped it in foil, then grilled it over wood chips for a couple of hours. Maybe it would be a taste sensation, but it could just as easily be too tough to eat. We hadn’t heard of anyone cooking a ham this way, so there was no one to ask.

The last 30 minutes, we mopped the ham with a mixture of molasses, ketchup, broth and brown mustard. We brought it into the house and opened the foil — it was red from the wood smoke and falling into candied shreds. Pig Candy! Six of us ate nearly half of the ham-ette.

    • Couple of days later, we had ham and potato bake. Winter comfort food at its peak. Wish you had been there.

Grilled Country Ham

    Scrub and soak a Tennessee country ham. Boil it for about 2 hours in water to cover. (Old-time cooks add pickle juice, vinegar, cloves, bay leaves, peppercorns and brown sugar to the water.) Let it cool in the water until cool enough to handle, about 6 hours or overnight. Trim off most of the fat. Rub all over with your favorite rib rub. Wrap in heavy-duty foil and grill over a very low, indirect heat source that includes wood chips for smoke. Turn the ham several times and cook for 11/2 to 2 hours until meat pulls off easily in shreds. Baste for the last 30 minutes with thin barbecue sauce. Makes about 20 servings.


Mrs. Woo’s Chinese Secret

Until the first letter arrived addressed to Mrs. Woo, I had no idea I was Asian. That first mailing I received from the Chinese American culture Alliance had me thinking, “Gosh this is poorly targeted fund-raising material.”
I turned over the letter to look at the address — perhaps it was misdelivered and was meant for the Korean family three doors down? But it was unmistakably me, Mrs. Woo, or almost me but for a letter or two.

Then there was another mailing, this time from an Asian American theater project. Then another. I didn’t know whether to be flattered or baffled or ethnically conflicted. True, I love Chinese food for its inventiveness, efficiency and refinement. But China as a nation — who can figure it out? The culture is inscrutable. The people seem impenetrable. I don’t get them; I just eat the food.

A few months later, a letter arrived from a non-Chinese charity whose mailings I’ve received for years. And there was Mrs. Woo again. Those capitalist running dogs had sold the mailing list to a specialty mailer! A harried typist somewhere in between had dropped letters from my name.

It was sort of anti-climactic end and I was sad to miss out on my future as an ethnic minority. I was kind of getting into it, you know, planning on what to serve for Chinese New Year and generally trying to think more deeply. For as Chuang-tze says, a good chef knows where to place the blade so that it appears as work without effort but is really work with insight.

Chinese New Year is here, time for duck and noodles. Here’s my duck friend again. I can’t help it — I just love him!The duck and noodles mean prosperity and long life. But I just got a great recipe for orange beef, possibly my favorite beef dish of all, and right up there with the great Chinese inventions.


Orange Beef Ken Hom

  • 1 pound lean beef fillet or sirloin steak


  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch

Slice the beef, then stack the slices and shred them. Combine it with the marinade ingredients in a bowl.


  • 3 tablespoons peanut oil
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons minced ginger
  • 2 large fresh red chiles, deseeded and minced
  • 2 tablespoons minced dried orange peel (or grated fresh peel)
  • 2 tablespoons chicken broth (I always need at least twice as much)
  • 2 tablespoon Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
  • 1 tablespoon chili bean paste
  • 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoon roasted ground Sichuan peppercorns
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil (or 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds)

Heat a wok or big skillet until hot then add the oil. When it begins to smoke add the beef and brown for 1 minute, then stir-fry for another minute. Drain, leaving 1 tablespoon oil in the skillet. Reheat the wok, then stir-fry the garlic and ginger for a few seconds. Add the chiles and orange peel and stir-fry for 20 seconds. Add the stock, wine, bean paste, soy sauce, peppercorns, sugar and sesame oil and cook for 30 seconds. Return the meat to the wok and heat briefly. Transfer to a serving platter and garnish with green onions. Makes 4 servings.

Oh Was There Football, Too?

Big Fella went to an all-boy Superbowl party and shot this photo. I asked, “Were there naked women there too?” Because, you know, it seems like that’s the only element missing from an otherwise perfect evening.