If cheese was photographed for an art or fashion magazine, this is what it would look like. A fashion magazine’s articles might be titled something like, “Fondue: On the Art of Seduction,” or, “This Season, Cheese Conquers its Fears and Melts our Hearts,” or “Cheese Heats up and SIZZLES.” (worth reading over celebrity advice any day!)
In Melted, Stretch, & Sizzle, Tia Keenan and photographer Noah Feck team up again for a stylish, ode to hot cheese that is as gorgeous to look at as it is packed with delicious recipes. Classic fondue. Not-so-classic burrata mac & cheese. Poutine with Lazy Gravy. And Goat Cheese Queso Fundido. I wouldn’t expect anything less contemporary or beautiful from the chef-fromager who opened both Caselulla and Murray’s Cheese Bar, wrote The Art of the Cheese Plate, authors cheese columns for WSJ and Bon Appetit.
Tia is always on the forefront of things. In honor of the latest book by one of the most creative and funny people I know, below is an interview about what it took to make a book devoted to hot cheese, with one of my favorite cheese ladies ever, Tia Keenan.
I hope you enjoy it, and check out her book!
1. Your book is awesome. How did you pick what hot cheese dishes do put in?
I wanted to include some of the hot cheese “greatest hits”, things like Mornay sauce, Mac & Cheese, a grilled cheese, so that I could talk to the reader about some fundamentals of cooking with cheese, but at the same time I wanted to introduce readers to an international mix of hot cheese dishes that are perhaps less familiar to do them. To me a good cookbook deepens our understanding of foods and recipes that may already be familiar, while also exploring new flavors, techniques, and contexts.
2. Was there one that you really wanted to fit in but couldn’t?
I had plenty of dishes I was interested in and developed a few that didn’t make it into the book. I would’ve loved to have gotten a fried cheese donut in there, but couldn’t find the right place for it.
[blog author’s note, here: mmmmmmm…..]
3. What does hot cheese mean to you?
It’s the excitement and deliciousness that happens when cheese and heat energy meet.
4. So much food photography out there features what look like the same people- mainly young, and white- holding platters, or feasting at the same parties. Your book includes hands with age spots holding popovers, gorgeous black hands holding gougère or lips admiring melting fondue. They’re beautiful, and it’s wonderful to see not just one community reflected in a contemporary book. What inspired you to mix up your photo scene, and how do you think your photos do (or don’t) reflect the greater food and cheese movement?
The problem always with shooting cheese is that most of it looks the same, is the same color. Aesthetically, I knew that using a darker-skinned black model would be a nice contrast to the white/yellow tones of melted cheese. I also am just tired of seeing white people all over food photography, so when I could push back against that in photos, I did. Black is beautiful! And for the older hands, well, I asked my 80-something neighbor Renee to model, because I knew she’d be fun on set and as her friend I’ve admired her hands. Having fun on set, bringing people you adore into the sacred space of making images – this is one of the ingredients to making photos that people want to look at. I love, respect, rely on, and admire older women, and in their hands lies the history of cooking and delicious food. My question is: why aren’t black and brown women, and older women, the central figures of food imagery? All the best food comes from them.
5. You’ve long been in the forefront of the cheese scene and pretty much were the first one in the restaurant world matching crazy flavors, textures, and unconventional foods with cheese. One might say you have a forward-thinking cheese-vision. Can you please look in your crystal ball and tell us what you see in our cheese future, and how it relates to your recent books, The Art of the Cheese Plate, and Melt, Stretch, & Sizzle?
To be honest, this was a hard book to make, for a myriad of reasons. And I essentially wrote three cheese books in three years (ACP, Short Stack Chevre, and MSS). I need a bit of a break. I think I’d like to write a memoir actually, or at least a book about some parts of my life. I need some time to get back to another cheese book. Percolation is really important to my creative process – I need time to think and dream and ask questions.
6. What is Sterio’s favorite hot cheese dish? [her son]
Mac & Cheese, by a mile.
7. What is the one thing that you wish people kept in mind or knew about cooking with cheese when left in the wild?
Never cook with cold cheese.