Donna Summer Hot Lunch.

Cake abandoned to inclement weather.

When disco invaded my home in the spring of 1976, it came by virtue of Donna  Summer’s voice. Perhaps “virtue” is a poor word choice given the fact that, thanks to the her extended dance version of the song “Love to Love You Baby”, I learned how to fake an orgasm at the tender age of six.

My teen-aged brother and sister brought the record into the living room, shoved aside the Engelbert Humperdinck and Johnny Mathis albums, placed the thing onto the turntable of our hi-fi, and introduced me to an aural sensory overload.

I started dancing around the living room with the clumsy abandon of a typical small child, but the noises vibrating out of that primitive stereo system were so wonderfully confusing and fascinating that things were about to change. Fast.

Bread & Mayo for the on-the-go disco roller skater.

Was she in pain? I wasn’t entirely certain, but I enjoyed the sound of it so much that I got down on the white wool carpeting in front of my siblings, lifted my pelvis to the beat and imitated the rather moist sounds emanating from the singer’s throat. Based upon the song’s title and the ensuing sound effects, I assumed Miss Summer was in the process of giving birth to the baby she kept telling us she loved to love. I was too young to understand precisely why my moaning and hip grinding caused my brother and sister to convulse with laughter, but I found it encouraging and kept on.

That is, until our horrified mother walked into the room. It was the last time Donna Summer was allowed in the living room.

The Queen of Disco made a big comeback in my life three years later when my neighbor Kimberly decided that we would make a good disco roller-dancing team. We would spend hours grooving to one particular song we liked to blast out of her blue, tnt-shaped Jimmy Walker Dyn-O-Mite! cassette deck when her mother wasn’t home. My role in our plastic wheeled funk ballets was limited to twirling my much more talented neighbor, but I didn’t much care. I loved the music. I’d sing to myself as we twirled about her concrete driveway:

“Lookin’ for some hot lunch baby this evenin’
I need some hot lunch baby tonight…”

Why she wanted a hot lunch at a time when dinner was traditionally served was odd, but not entirely confusing since many were the night I would have preferred a warm sandwich to a plate of my mother’s beef stew or chicken chow mein. I was down with that. She was speaking my language. Only she wasn’t. I was well past thirty when I realized I had gotten the lyrics terribly wrong.

And, by the time I learned what those lyrics actually were, I could have cared less. Whenever I hear the term “Hot Lunch”, I will forever think of her. And sneaker-style roller skates with the blue stoppers bolted to the toe.

However conflicted my feelings might be about the Donna Summer of the 80’s or 90’s or 00’s might be, I will always love to love her disco-era songs and the rather vivid memories for which she provided an indelible soundtrack.

She will be very much missed.

Hot Lunch

In honor of Donna Summer, I made myself the only hot lunch I knew how to make myself in the 1970’s– a grilled cheese sandwich.  I will spare you the hastily assembled and quickly-burned Wonder Bread and Kraft American cheese version of my youth. I’ve learned a thing or two about cooking (and grilled cheese sandwiches) since then.

One of the most important grilled cheese-related breakthroughs I’ve discovered since then comes from Ruth Reichl, of all people. I owe a never-ending “thank you” to anyone who tells me it’s okay to slather mayonnaise on both sides of my bread. Give it a try. It seriously works wonders.

Hot and unashamedly cheesy.

Extra-Hot Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Makes one seriously hot lunch.


• About a half cup of cheddar cheese, grated. Don’t use crappy cheese. Splurge.
• A good tablespoon of yellow onion, also finely grated. And by good tablespoons, I mean “heaping” not “heirloom silver,” although there’s nothing wrong with combining the two.
• A tablespoon of hot mustard.
• 1 teaspoon of finely minced habanero pepper. Or more. Make it has hot as you want.
• Freshly ground pepper to taste.
• Plenty of mayonnaise for bread-slathering
• 2 slices of white bread. Or whatever kind of bread you want. I do not care, although I cannot guarantee that the ghost of Donna Summer won’t be judging you.
•  About 1 tablespoon of butter.


1. Grate cheese into a medium-sized bowl. Grate onion into the same bowl with the same grater, which will help get most of the cheese out of those little holes. Add mustard, ground pepper, and chopped habanero. Mix until ingredients are combined.

2. Wash hands as thoroughly as if you were about to perform surgery on your own grandmother.

3. Melt butter in a cast iron skillet over a lowish medium heat.

4. Slather mayonnaise on one side of both pieces of bread.  Place one piece of bread mayo-side down into the hot skillet. Spread cheese mixture onto the dry side of the bread. Place second piece of bread over the cheese, mayo-side up. When the bottom of your now-formed sandwich is sufficiently browned, gently flip it over and brown the other side to your general satisfaction.

5. Remove from skillet when the cheese is melted to your liking and eat this greasy, calorie-laden sandwich while it is still hot.

6. If you have hardwood floors and downstairs neighbors you hate, roll up living room carpet, put on a pair of skates, blare a little Donna Summer music, and roller dance the calories away.


*Ingredients are approximate because you’re making a sandwich, not a god damned pie crust.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

About Michael Procopio

I write about food and am very fond of Edward Gorey. And gin.
This entry was posted in Celebrities, Sandwiches and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

36 Responses to Donna Summer Hot Lunch.

  1. Jay Floyd says:

    I thought we’d never have this recipe again.

    • Do you work for Whole Foods? I could probably ask the nice little man behind the counter.

      I decided to simply purchase a little cake for time’s sake because, as the lyrics clearly state that to bake it would take a rather long time.

  2. Scott_D says:

    Great tribute, made me giggle a little.

  3. Athena says:

    a cute homage with some fromage

  4. Donna summer was beyond any border. I also grew up with her music and I am glad you remember her with a good sense of humor .

  5. Apologies to the late, great Ms. Summer, but I would probably rather have a hot lunch too. Especially if you serve it to me while wearing roller skates.

    • Do they still make the blue tennis shoe-style roller skates? Or, better yet, the leather lace-up boot-style ones that came in either black (for boys) and white (for girls and certain brave boys)?

      If you could find me a pair, I will serve you as commanded.

  6. Andrea says:

    • A good tablespoon of yellow onion, also finely grated. And by good tablespoons, I mean “heaping” not “heirloom silver,” although theirs nothing wrong with combining the two.

    Theirs should be there’s but otherwise great post!

  7. John Smart says:

    Hmmm. The perfect lunch for someone like me.

  8. I got a real kick out of this!

  9. I read your post before I went to bed, had disco dreams, woke up with a “Hot Stuff” earworm firmly drilled into my brain and made myself a grilled cheese with leftover pimento cheese spread that was in the fridge – it was a great mash-up of your posts.

    • I really, really must do something different next time. Otherwise, I shall be pigeon-holed as “The Grated Cheddar Blogger”.

      And then I would cut off my hands and cry for multiple reasons.

  10. Trix says:

    When I first read the title of this post I thought it was some brilliant mash up of Donna Summer and Fame (Sexy Saidie … serving lady … ) . But I like this even better. I cannot begin to count the lyrics I have misinterpreted … (Dirty jeans. Dungarees! for “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap”). I used to screech MacArthur Park and I Feel Love for my poor babysitter … I doubt she was paid nearly enough. And yes – mayonnaise! It turns the toast into a crispy miracle.

    • Are we the same age? Because I had so many lyrical accuracy issues stemming from late 70’s/early 80’s music.

      Like the time I was ridiculed in middle school for thinking The Gogo’s were singing about the Queen of The Bees, rather than The Beat they had.

      I’ve actually been working on a recipe based upon another misunderstood lyric from childhood, but I shall wait until the weather turns cold again.

  11. Lana says:

    Thank you for this nostalgic laugh! I see that 1976 was not a special year only for me:) I’ll tell you that you fared much better (the only good thing that came out of it for me was a crush on Bruce Lee:)
    Love the Hot Lunch Sandwich (trust me, you have nothing on wrong lyrics compared to me growing up in Serbia:)! I am very intrigued by the addition of habanero. Ever since I read about the perfect grilled cheese from R. R., I knew I have to try the trick with mayo.

    • I can only imagine the challenge of trying to understand English pop music lyrics when that is not one’s first language. It’s hard enough for me.

      Oh, I’m pretty sparing with the habanero, because I don’t like to be in pain. And the whole mayonnaise on the outside thing? It has completely transformed my grilled cheese-eating reality.


  12. Lawrence in Ohio says:

    In honour of one of Donna Summers’ best ever songs, I tipped 8.00 on a 28.00 check today, because the waitress was working hard for the money. One of her tables was an 8 top with young children. (Not my party.–had that been my party, I would have given the poor dear 150.00 as a tip.)

    A really good way to get grated onion is to use a Microplane zester-shredder.

    It would appear that I am slightly older than you, and I was ready for Donna Summer, Sylvester, Alecia Bridges. . . .

    I admit it, I fell a little out of love with Ms. Summer, but I do treasure the memories of my wilder days, and I wish her soul peace, and her loved ones great memories.

    Lawrence in Ohio

    • Well, I am delighted to know you treated her right. So right.

      I actually did use a Microplane zester for both the onions and the cheese. I was going to add the instructions “Use the same grater to shred the onion that you used for the cheese. This will remove any fine bits of cheddar that will be a real bitch to clean out of one’s Microplane later if one has forgotten to wash it immediately.”

      But I forgot.

      Oh, and don’t we all treasure our wilder days?I know I would if I had ever had any.

  13. Susan says:

    Hi Michael,
    I have always suspected that I dropped off the planet
    at certain times of my life.
    Love your post! Mayonnaise on both sides of the bread is genius and grating the onion with the cheese is something I will definitely try!

    • Do you mean to tell me you dropped of the planet during The Time of Disco? Wherever do you go during these escapes of yours?

      I work with a man who had never heard of Donna Summer. Perhaps the two of you know each other.

      Oh, and in all seriousness, the mayonnaise is a must.


  14. Macaroni and baloni, tuna fish, our favorite dish. Hot lunch.
    If it’s yellow, then it’s jello.If it’s blue,it could be stew!

    Oh, that was Irene Cara Cara. (of the orange fame?) I’m sure Donna served up a worthy hot lunch as well. Its all good. I feel love. Especially for Donna and how she reigned supreme at the time in my life where I needed to know there was a world out there where I would be welcomed. I even feel love for Ruth Reichl, of all people. 🙂

    • I am mortified to admit that I remembered that song very differently, if I truly even remembered it at all. No one in my family was interested in seeing “Fame”, so I never got around to seeing it until much later.

      And that was at a period in my life wherein I would do nearly anything to avoid having to see or hear Debbie Allen. This period of my life extends into the present.

  15. Serene says:

    You’re so wonderful. I’ve really missed your writing. (I’ve been buried in school stuff.)

  16. Serene says:

    Oh, and, the subscribe-by-email button is, sadly, broken, so I am going to make another comment just so I can check the tickybox I forgot to check the first time.

  17. Lana says:

    Me, again:) I don’t know if it will amount to anything, but I nominated you for Food Stories Award for Excellence in Storytelling. I hope the link works if you want to check the site and claim the award:)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Connect with Facebook