Thirty years ago, I wasn't much for cooking. During my single days, I lived on frozen Lean Cuisine entrées and salads. A pound of hamburger would last me for a month. My husband's staples when he was single included meat, of course, being a butcher, and his go-to side dishes were Stove Top Stuffing, ramen noodles, and Kraft Macaroni and Cheese.
One winter's day when I was a new bride, I decided to impress my husband with a bubbling pan of homemade macaroni and cheese. He was going to be trapping out on the desert all day long, and I just knew my efforts would be rewarded with lavish praise and appreciation. My mom's macaroni and cheese was so much better than anything that came out of a box. I was going to knock his socks off by going the extra mile, and making one of his favorite dishes, homemade.
When we first got married, we lived in a renovated section of my husband's MEAT PACKING PLANT, and the only electrical outlet in the tiny kitchen area was down on the floor in the baseboard heater. I set up my blender on the floor to blend the milk, flour, and melted butter. I grated all of the cheese by hand because as newlyweds, we still had not acquired much in the way of appliances. I boiled the elbow macaroni. I assembled all of the ingredients in a large casserole dish, and then I made the buttery crumb topping. This was going to be so good; I couldn't wait to see his reaction.
True to form, he got home quite late, but I had kept dinner warm for him. The table was set, and after he washed up, we sat down at the table so he could have this wonderful dinner I had prepared. My eyes lit up as he sampled the macaroni and cheese, knowing he would love the tender macaroni and melted cheese mingled with the rich butter, and the crunchy, butter-coated topping.
He told me about his adventures on the desert, and I listened, growing somewhat irritated by the minute that he wasn't fawning over my latest masterpiece in the kitchen. I'd gone all out. I grated the cheese by HAND. That dish had been made with LOVE, gosh darn it.
Finally, I asked. "So...how do you like that macaroni and cheese? It's pretty good, isn't it?"
"Yeah, it's not bad, I guess, but you know what I LOVE? You know the kind that comes in the blue box?"
"KRAFT MACARONI AND CHEESE?" I asked incredulously, thinking, "You mean that processed junk that takes 8 minutes to boil, and then you add that disgusting orange powder to some milk and butter, and it's done? THAT crap?"
"Yeah, that! I LOVE that stuff. It just doesn't get any better than mac and cheese out of a box."
Talk about casting pearls before swine...
We had Kraft macaroni and cheese from then on, and actually, I just bought the generic brand. Obviously, I wasn't feeding someone who appreciated "gourmet" food, and I was right. The off-brand suited him just fine.
It would be decades before I took the effort required to have homemade macaroni and cheese. Whenever Mom asks what I want her to make when we're coming over for dinner, I request her mac and cheese. She loves to cook for a crowd, and my kids and I love it! If someone is going to make that kind of effort, it better not go unappreciated!
Mac and cheese from a blue box? Oh, brother...