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?)

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“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 12, 2020

    When I was 3 years old, my family moved to Japan. My father, a doctor in the Navy, was stationed at Yokosuka, a small naval base about an hour away from Tokyo. I don't remember much about Japan, but the one thing I remember clearly is the mac'n'cheese. 
    That seems strange, because Japanese chefs are known for sushi and rice dishes, not American food. But there was an military-owned American-style 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 weren't many other kid-friendly dishes on the menu, but also because it was really good. 
   I'm not the first person to enjoy this delicious mixture of pasta and melted cheese. In fact, the earliest iteration comes from 13th century Italy, in a book called Liber de Coquina (meaning “book of cooking”). This early version consisted of cut-up bits of cooked lasagna coated with parmesan cheese (Wright). In France, they had a similar dish made of pastry dough, cheese, and butter (Bhabha). But most would agree the history of mac’n’cheese in America 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 tried it for the first time in France, and he liked it so much he served it at a state dinner in 1802 (Rhodes). Since then, it's been a staple of American cuisine. 
    Over the years, many different version of mac'n'cheese have evolved. Everyone I know has their own recipe they swear by. My parents' recipe is very traditional, based on a roux mixed with pasta and cheese, baked in the oven, and covered in breadcrumbs. It comes from a cookbook they got as a wedding gift. My paternal grandmother has a different recipe, a lot creamier and without the breadcrumbs, coming from a cookbook she's had since the 1960s. My maternal grandmother buys frozen mac’n’cheese from a Seattle cheese company called Beecher’s. All of their versions are equally delicious, in their own way. 
    High end restaurants, as well, have put their own spin on mac’n’cheese. You can find variations made with special artisan cheeses, or extras like bacon, broccoli or lobster. Not to mention the many companies that make boxed mac’n’cheese, whether it’s Kraft or a gluten-free, dairy-free company like Daiya.
    Why is that? Why is there some variation of mac'n'cheese in every facet of American culture, from comfort food to health food?
    For me, mac’n’cheese is bigger 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 went out for the night and left me and my siblings 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.  We'd jump on the couch, eat ridiculous amounts of ice cream, and stay up late reading. Now when I think of mac'n'cheese, I think of the innocence and simplicity of my childhood. 
    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 (Rhodes). 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 (Edgar). It’s universal to all fifty states, North and South, East and West. 
    The universality of mac'n'cheese is highly unique. Americans, especially lately, have a hard time agreeing on things. Everyone seems to have a different idea of what's important. Sometimes it feels like we don't even live on the same planet. But despite all the division and hateful feelings, we can all remember the feeling of eating mac'n'cheese for the first time. We can all remember the excitement of seeing our mother grating cheese and boiling pasta, and we can all remember the first time we, too, learned how to make mac'n'cheese. Mac'n'cheese means a lot of different things to different people but the comfort we feel is the same.

Rhodes, Jesse. “Marvelous Macaroni and Cheese.” Smithsonian.com, Smithsonian Institution, 22 Mar. 2011, www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/marvelous-macaroni-and-cheese-30954740/.
Wright, Clifford A. “Origin of ‘Macaroni and Cheese.’” Did You Know: Food History , www.cliffordawright.com/caw/food/entries/display.php/topic_id/16/id/105/. Accessed 12 Jun. 2020
Bhabha, Leah. “The History of Macaroni and Cheese.” Food52, Food52, 7 Mar. 2014, food52.com/blog/9916-the-history-of-macaroni-and-cheese.
Edgar, Gordon. “A Brief History of America's Appetite for Macaroni and Cheese.” Smithsonian.com, Smithsonian Institution, 29 May 2018, www.smithsonianmag.com/history/brief-history-americas-appetite-for-macaroni-cheese-180969185/.

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