Happy New Year everyone! I hope 2017 brings us joy, luck, and most importantly, unity. In light of this year’s highly important and transitional events, including the inauguration and of course, Martin Luther King, Jr. day, I would like to explore one of those classic American dishes – macaroni and cheese. Whether homemade or out of the signature blue box, mac and cheese is one of those meals that can serve as an emergency dinner for stressed out college students, a side dish for a hearty meal of soul food, or a spiced up entree for families from other cultures celebrating their freedoms today. In fact, I’m pretty sure I lived off mac and cheese for several months throughout my hectic college career. Let’s learn about the evolution of mac and cheese in American culture.
Macaroni and Cheese and History
Photo Credit: Quartz
According to culinary expert Clifford Wright, since the Kraft Company put it in a box in 1937 every American kid grew up with macaroni and cheese. There can be no doubt that its ultimate origins are Italian, as one finds macaroni and cheese recipes from the late thirteenth century in southern Italy. The anonymous Liber de coquina, written in Latin by someone familiar with the Neapolitan court then under the sphere of Charles II of Anjou (1248-1309) has a recipe called de lasanis which we can call the first macaroni and cheese recipe. It was a macaroni, in this case, lasagne sheets made from fermented dough and cut into two-inch squares that were cooked in water and tossed with grated cheese, probably Parmesan. The author suggests using powdered spices and layering the sheets of lasagne, just like today, with the cheese if desired.
But the American macaroni and cheese has two main lines of ancestry claimed. In the first, it is thought that macaroni and cheese was a casserole that had its beginnings at a New England church supper. In southeastern Connecticut it was known long ago as macaroni pudding. In the second, and more famous story, and more than likely the original story, it is said that the classic American macaroni and cheese returned with Thomas Jefferson to Virginia after his sojourn in Italy. Jefferson had brought back a pasta machine from Italy. His daughter Mary Randolph became the hostess of his house after Jefferson’s wife died and she is credited with inventing the dish using macaroni and Parmesan cheese. Later, the Parmesan was replaced with cheddar cheese. Anyway, that’s one story. It is more likely that Jefferson encountered the dish in Italy and brought back the recipe.
Macaroni and Cheese and Politics
While macaroni and cheese certainly brings people together from an array of different backgrounds who today, on Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday, may be celebrating their freedoms from discriminatory segregation laws, it can also serve as a metaphor for something else – the free speech rights exercised by the diverse people of America.
Photo Credit: Biography.com
With today being a remarkable day for remembering the nonviolent activism of Martin Luther King, Jr., who advocated for the judgement of people based on the “content of their character,” please let us remember to protest peacefully throughout this historically significant week of the controversial presidential inauguration.
Photo Credit: The Washington Times
While some people have committed themselves to protesting in ways that are potentially dangerous, illegal, or violent, please keep in mind that this American holiday advocates for exercising freedom of speech in a peaceful manner. Below is a list of potential ways to protest this week:
1. Public Speeches
2. Letters of opposition or support
3. Declarations by organizations and institutions
4. Signed public statements
5. Declarations of indictment and intention
6. Group or mass petitions
Communications with a Wider Audience
7. Slogans, caricatures, and symbols
8. Banners, posters, and displayed communications
9. Leaflets, pamphlets, and books
10. Newspapers and journals
11. Records, radio, and television
12. Skywriting and earthwriting
14. Mock awards
Symbolic Public Acts
17. Displays of flags and symbolic colors
18. Delivering symbolic objects
19. Symbolic lights
20. Displays of portraits
21. Paint as protest
22. New signs and names
23. Symbolic sounds
24. Symbolic reclamations
Pressures on Individuals
Drama and Music
27. Humorous skits and pranks
28. Performances of plays and music
32. Protest meetings
33. Camouflaged meetings of protest
Withdrawal and Renunciation
37. Renouncing honors
38. Turning one’s back
Noncooperation with Social Events, Customs, and Institutions
39. Suspension of social and sports activities
40. Boycott of social affairs
41. Student strike
42. Withdrawal from social institutions
For full list, click here.
Have a great week and please remember to protest in peace 😉
Macaroni and Cheese and Pop Culture
Mac and cheese created a buzz in 2012 when the telecommunications company, Verizon, released a humorous and viral commercial that contained the “Mac and Cheese” song by GWOW in its promotion of the 2012 iPad. With so much new technology on the rise, who knows where mac and cheese will make its next hilarious appearance?
Beecher’s “World’s Best” Mac and Cheese
Recipe from Beecher’s “Pure Flavor” cookbook and The Weekend Gourmet
Photo Credit: The Weekend Gourmet
This is a delicious mac and cheese recipe from one of my favorite restaurants in Seattle, Beecher’s! Enjoy 🙂
Step 1: Preheat oven to 350. Spray an 8×8 baking dish with non-stick spray. Cook 6 ounces of penne pasta for two minutes less than the package directions — it finishes cooking as the mac and cheese bakes. Set aside while you make the cheese sauce.
Step 2: To make the cheese sauce, melt 1/2 stick of butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in 1/3 cup flour and cook for about 2 minutes, whisking constantly. Slowly add 3 cups whole milk. Cook until the sauce thickens…about 10 minutes. Give it a stir every minute or so to keep it from scorching. Remove the thickened sauce from the heat.
Step 3: Add 14 ounces (3.5 cups) Beecher’s Flagship Cheddar, 2 ounces (1/2 cup) Beecher’s Just Jack Cheese, 1/2 tsp. chipotle chili powder, 1/8 tsp. garlic powder, and 1/2 tsp. salt. Stir until all the cheese is melted an incorporated…this takes a bit of patience, but keep stirring until the sauce is smooth.
Step 4: Combine the cooked pasta and 2 cups of the cheese sauce (half the batch) in a large bowl. Scrape into a prepared baking dish. Top with an additional 1/4 cup shredded Flagship Reserve Cheddar and 1/3 cup grated Gruyere. Just before popping into the oven, sprinkle an additional 1/2 tsp. chipotle chili powder on top. Bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes…until the cheese is melted and the whole dish is bubbly. Let the pan sit for five minutes before serving.
If you’d like to try Beecher’s “World’s Best” Mac and Cheese at home, there are two ways. One is to buy it pre-made at select local retailers. The other is to purchase the “World’s Best” Mac & Cheese Kit at the Beecher’s website and whip up a batch (…or two) in your very own kitchen.