Because food connects us all, Yahoo Life is serving up a heaping plateful of table talk with people who are passionate about what's on their menu in Deglazed, a series about food.
Backstreet Boy AJ McLean says being from Florida, he meets a lot of people who forget the Sunshine State is part of the South. "I tell people I'm from the South and they ask me Where? Texas? Georgia? And I'm like No, I'm from Florida and it's about as south as you're gonna get," he says."It's more southern than Texas y'all. If you know your geography, you will know, Florida is the South."
But it wasn't Southern food McLean grew up eating. The 44-year-old says his grandmother was born in Germany and his grandfather was Puerto Rican. "My mom and myself obviously were all of the above," he says. "There was a lot of Spanish-influenced food made in my house as well as bratwurst and classic German food."
Still, there was one breakfast dish to top all breakfast dishes: The McLean, a breakfast sandwich made by the singer's grandmother.
"It was simple and easy," he tells Yahoo Life. "She would make me bacon, egg and cheese on an English muffin and she nicknamed it 'The McLean.' So every morning if I asked for a McLean, I knew what I was getting."
"For years, any time I would go to McDonald's or any restaurant and get a breakfast sandwich, it would just come out that way," he adds, "People would be like I'm sorry what do you want? But it will always forever be called a McLean."
McLean, whose kids are 5 and 9, now makes McLeans in his own kitchen. "I've even passed the tradition down to my daughters," he says. "If they ever want one, they just ask for a McLean and know exactly they're going to get."
McLean says his wife, Rochelle, does the bulk of the cooking in their home, "because she's home more" than he is. His mother-in-law, who lives close by, is Irish and Mexican ... and a great cook. "She makes everything from scratch so we have some pretty darn good meals here at the house," he shares. "We eat everything from chicken enchilada casserole to homemade soup, which is my go-to in this house."
There's also a special pasta salad recipe McLean craves, made by his wife and her mom. "It's only brought out for Thanksgiving and it angers me that nobody will make it for me the entire year," he says. "It's pasta with chopped olives and the key to it, actually, is mayonnaise with a little bit of cream cheese ... it's like popping open a Pringle's can with this macaroni salad. Once you start you just keep going and going."
If McLean was having his fellow Backstreet Boys and their families over to his California home, he'd keep the menu a little more healthy. "My go-to would probably be flank steak marinated in a low-sodium marinade with a little bit of peppercorn on there," he says. "And, I do love garlic-glazed asparagus and double-stuffed baked potatoes. That is just the jam."
During the pandemic, McLean says he flexed his culinary muscles, learning how to do more cooking at home. Now, he describes his family as "very home-bodied."
"I think we got more comfortable cooking for ourselves and now we eat healthier," says McLean, who recently lost over 30 pounds."It's just better all around and we're more comfortable — we eat in our sweats and flip-flops and don't have to get dressed up."
McLean spoke with Yahoo Life as part of his work promoting the Mr. Coffee 4-in-1 Single-Serve Latte, Iced and Hot Coffee Maker. Through Oct. 3, coffee fans can enter the I Want it Latte sweepstakes, where they could win a recording of McLean singing their go-to coffee order.
But what's McLean's go-to coffee drink? A white chocolate mocha.
"Once that touched my lips, I have never gone back," he says. "I have never even wanted to try another kind of coffee. Every so often during the holidays I'll branch out and do like a gingerbread or pumpkin spice latte, but it's always white chocolate mocha, sugar free with oat milk — that is my go-to drink."
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