Ever since I was a little girl, I have been a lover of macaroni and cheese. Usually, it was the boxed Kraft version--where the elbow macaronis came in the signature blue box with the silvery packet of gooey cheese. I thought I was the quite the gourmet when I learned how to make it on the stovetop--all by myself. It was warm, inviting, and it was cheese--a personal favorite. I even liked it cold. Still do.
As the Director of Food Services (Chief Cook and Bottlewasher) for a large protestant church in downtown Fort Lauderdale, my Nana would make this stuff by the ginormous panful. The cheese would be bubbly and a soft brown crust would form over the top and you had to serve it with a non-slotted spoon. You couldn’t miss out on one iota of the cheese-a-licious-ness. Leftovers were a foregone conclusion--but they didn’t last very long. Not much “left”, if you know what I mean.
Years later, I would be gifted with At Home in Mitford, the first in Jan Karon’s beloved series about which you have read (and likely heard) much if you’ve followed this little blog on a quasi-regular basis. What I soon to came to love, second only to the colorful characters, was the food. The recipes just poured out of Mitford. Esther Bolick’s Triple Orange Marmalade Cake was the blue-ribbon favorite in the fictional town and in the fandom. However, as I perused my Mitford Cookbook and Kitchen Reader, I discovered Puny’s Homemade Mac & Cheese. If you want to know who Puny is, you’ll just have to pick up a Mitford book. And how, that was a recipe that had to be tried.
After hand-grating four different kinds of cheeses for this recipe--pre-shredded bags were simply out of the question. And toiling. Oh, the toiling. Mini-Hooper, who might have still been in his Ninja stage, sighed, and basically spurned Puny’s offerings. A double set of sighs emitted from his mother. Then, I remembered that this is the kid who until just recently had been very happy with those “just add water” and nuke the heck out of it mac-n-cheese bowls. Then add the powder. Oy. Double oy.
However, since being introduced to various kinds of pasta possibilities (cavatappi, fusilli, and trottole--the last of those pronounced “delicioso” and fun to eat by all of us!) and the delights of melted Velveeta, Mini-Hooper is pacified and satisfied. Don’t judge--this is what is called “meeting in the middle”, my friends. Frankly, it looks lovely in a white Corningware dish, steaming on my table. And the leftovers are grand.
Macaroni and cheese. It’s magically delicious.