United States

Hello! Some things about me are that I:
Love classical books (War and Peace, the Odyssey, Emma, etc.)
Love singing & playing piano
and I love sleeping (who doesn't?)

Message from Writer

“Writing a book is an adventure. To begin with it is a toy and an amusement. Then it becomes a mistress, then it becomes a master, then it becomes a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster and fling him to the public.”
-Winston Churchill

Everyone Likes Mac'n'Cheese

June 7, 2020

    When I was 3 years old, my family moved to Japan. My father, a doctor in the Navy, was stationed at Yokohama, a small naval base about an hour away from Tokyo. I don’t remember much, since I was little, though I remember more than my sister, who had barely been born when we moved. 
    The most definite memory of Japan is centered around mac’n’cheese. That sounds strange, because Japanese people are known for sushi and rice dishes, not American comfort food. But there was an American hotel in Tokyo that my family visited often, and they had the best mac’n’cheese I’ve ever eaten. Without fail, every time I went, I would order the mac’n’cheese. Partially because there wasn’t many other kid-friendly dishes on the menu, but also because it was really good mac’n’cheese. It was the kind of mac’n’cheese I like, where the cheese sauce feels almost slippery, and if you don’t stab the macaroni hard enough it’ll just fall off the fork. 
    Mac’n’cheese has a long history. The earliest iteration comes from 13th century Italy, in a book called Liber de Coquina (which means “book of cooking”). It consisted of cut up bits of cooked lasagna coated with parmesan cheese. In France, they had a similar dish made of pastry dough, cheese, and butter. But most would agree the history of mac’n’cheese in American starts with Thomas Jefferson. In addition to writing the Declaration of Independence and doubling the size of the US with the Louisiana Purchase, Jefferson also introduced mac’n’cheese to the United States. He brought the recipe back from France, along with fine Parmesan and macaroni noodles, and served it at a state dinner in 1802. His daughter was the one who first introduced cheddar cheese to the dish, leading to the mac’n’cheese we know today. 
    Today there are many different forms of mac’n’cheese. Everyone I know has their own recipe that they swear by. My parents recipe is very traditional, the type that becomes a solid brick when refrigerated. It’s based on a roux, a mixture of butter and flour, and uses breadcrumbs as a topping. My paternal grandmother has a very different recipe, a lot creamier and without the breadcrumbs. My maternal grandmother buys her mac’n’cheese from a Seattle cheese company called “Beecher’s”. Someday, I’m sure I’ll have my own special mac’n’cheese recipe.
    High end restaurants, as well, are putting their unique spin on mac’n’cheese. Each chef has their own version, made with a special artisan cheese, or with extras like bacon, broccoli or lobster. Not to mention the many companies that make their own versions of boxed mac’n’cheese, whether it’s Kraft, or a gluten-free, dairy-free company like Daiya.
    Why is that? Why is mac’n’cheese a staple of both proletariat and elite cuisine? Why is it so central to American culture?
    For me, mac’n’cheese is a lot more than just a meal. It has more meaning and more memories than almost any other food, because it was one of the few foods I really loved as a kid.  Whenever my parents would go out for the night and leave us with a babysitter, they would make boxed mac’n’cheese. We’d eat it while watching Star Wars and doing a bunch of crazy stuff we wouldn’t do with our parents around. 
    For people living during the Depression, boxed mac’n’cheese was a cheap source of sustenance. For college students, it’s the energy to power through an all night study session. For African Americans, it’s a reminder of their cultural heritage. The first American to cook mac’n’cheese was James Hemming, Thomas Jefferson’s black chef. On plantations, mac’n’cheese was a staple dish for slaves and slaveowners alike. It’s universal to all fifty states, no matter what part of the country you live in. 
    For every person, mac’n’cheese means something different. It means a different recipe, with different cheeses and different preparation styles. It means different memories, of different childhoods, and different parents. But the comfort we feel is the same. No matter who you are, as long as you’re American, you like mac’n’cheese.

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1 Comment
  • Anne Blackwood

    *groans because i can't have dairy or gluten*

    over 1 year ago