The late, and amazing, Julia Child once said, “People who love to eat are the best people.” Well, thank heaven because I love to eat! The greatest of whom has ever lived and ever will commanded His disciples to feed His sheep. So maybe the ones of us who love to feed others more than we love to eat, might just be on to something. This gives me hope. Because, (a) I love to eat, and (b) I love to feed people even more! Consequently, I love, love, love to cook!
As long as I can remember, I have been playing in the kitchen and creating food. Even as a little girl when we were told to play outside, I would often grab a bag of flour and a box of Hershey’s Cocoa and literally make mud pies. When we were old enough to stay home in the summer while Mom worked, the highlight of my day was creating something that we would call lunch and watching my sister eat it… hoping and praying that she would love it.
Life gets marked by our experiences and the seasons we go through… we all have different ways of memorializing those times and seasons. You mention a season of my life (and it has been a doozy) and I will tell you what my favorite things to cook were during that time. And just a little hint… they will likely just to so happen to be the things that the people I loved called their favorites at the time.
We have had seasons of brownies, seasons of spaghetti, seasons of chicken spaghetti… risotto… caprese salads. There has been taco season, chicken & dumplings season, chicken salad season… you get the gist. But perhaps my favorite season and one that seems to have no beginning and no end, would be mac ‘n cheese season. Ahhhhh…. ooey, gooey, hot, bubbly mac ‘n nheese. My favorite season. I have a feeling I am not alone.
As I write this, the Kraft Macaroni & Cheese Facebook page has over 1.3 million fans. I suspect there would be more if people knew that Kraft actually had a page for this. I think that most of us grew up on the blue box of joy and can say that is where our mac ‘n cheese love started. My Mamma used to tell me at family gatherings that she made the Kraft Macaroni & Cheese just for me. (See, I come from a long line of amazing women who love people with food.) Now she may very well have told everyone that, but I believed that it was specially made for me and it meant more than any toy at Christmas ever could have. In my world, that was made just for me with love. Mac ‘n cheese = love. Yep.
Over the years, other versions of the cheesy noodle goodness came along to grow my palette. From the big fat elbow noodles at Luby’s on Sundays after church to the many variations that would always make it to the potluck dinners and church picnics, to some amazing chefs and restauranteurs that have created various combinations of cheeses and add-ins, like lobster (oh my!) and BACON. (Oh, yes, yes, yes… everything is better with bacon!). One day I formulated a plan to write my own cookbook… all mac ‘n cheese recipes. That, my friends, is still a dream and a work in progress.
My friend Christine asked me once, for an article she was writing for our local newspaper, what my favorite comfort food was and why. My reply? One guess. Yep! I told her what I will tell you…
There is something about mac ‘n cheese that is just perfection. The right bowl of creamy, gooey, wonderfully-cheesy mac ‘n cheese just tells your body from the inside out that all is right with the world. Even if it is just for the few minutes you spend enjoying that hot bowl of goodness. It’s like getting a new puppy… total joy. Cheese is, after all, the best food ever. And pasta is quite possibly the most important gift the Italians have given the world. (Well, in addition to some great literature, architecture, art, wine and a Church that you may have heard of.) Well, anyway, when you marry the two together, add lots of butter and cream (and maybe some bacon) you just hear angels singing as you pull it out of the oven. No, really!! Comfort food that warms you up from the deepest spot in your belly and coats your palate with happiness. It just doesn’t get any better than a great mac ‘n cheese.
While there are a million ways to shake it up and make it fun. this is my most favorite, foundational and most-requested recipe for mac ‘n cheese, and the base recipe for many of the fun variations. The one that you HAVE to go back for seconds on and hits all of the criteria that are a must for mac ‘n cheese. It is super-cheesy, nice and gooey and doesn’t taste like cardboard when you reheat it. May it bring you joy… may it be fun for you to make… may it make everyone at the dinner table smile. Most importantly, may it make you and someone else feel loved when you present it. Mac ‘N Cheese love is one of my favorite kinds! Enjoy! <3