Writing 101, Day Ten: Happy (Insert Special Occasion Here)!
Tell us about your favorite childhood meal — the one that was always a treat, that meant “celebration,” or that comforted you and has deep roots in your memory.
Hello again, macaroni and cheese. We meet today at the intersection of broccoli, cauliflower and a blend of low fat dairy products, my attempt at turning you into a dish for grownups though they say it cannot be done.
We go way back, you and me. The first time Mom let me help make you for dinner I added the powdered cheese packet before straining the noodles, a watery cheese soup. That was in our very first kitchen, 1970’s style in our old house. I was so small that I stood on a stool to see into the black bubbling pot, face full of steam, linoleum crackling underneath.
After a while I got the hang of it. A cheese packet, butter, and milk were the three ingredients I would add to you after draining the water, to create for myself an orange bowl of cheesy sustenance, later learning this was called “the ultimate comfort food”.
Around the age of 5 or so, I remember eating a large plateful of you on our gold tweed couch, in front of the convex TV console that sat on the floor like a piece of antique furniture. I remember later that night not feeling so well and having a moment of deja vu when my dinner came back up to greet me, not looking much different than it had before. But that wasn’t the best of our memories, was it?
In summer I would eat you at Grandma’s along with a hot dog off the grill, cut into rounds. Those were fond times, looking out the window or right off the back porch into Grandma’s flowering stretch of roses over a cold glass of chocolate milk. Those were the days.
Later in life I learned that fancy macaroni and cheese could be made, and sampled homemade baked dishes of you at potlucks and at my father’s girlfriend’s green dining room table. I remember having the realization that real cheese tastes better than a powdered cheese packet, consequently shunning Kraft’s easy version of the recipe for most of my adolescent years.
Until college. Then came Easy-Mac, but it didn’t last. Somehow I formed the idea that there were two types of people in the world: 1) People who cook homemade dishes and are therefore creative and possess good taste, and 2) People who eat Easy-Mac. By the end of freshman year, this experimental phase of my macaroni and cheese eating life met its end.
Today I have made you from scratch and I am proud – proud to be part of my imaginary group of do-it-yourself kind of people, and proud to have stuck my neck out and tried a new recipe. Here’s to our long standing relationship and to the memories we’ve made.
Thanks for being a friend.