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A Homage to Homemade Macaroni and Cheese

Neither cinnamon nor cumin, peppermint nor paprika, were scents often smelt in my kitchen growing up. My mom was never a culinary capershe worked full-time for most of my childhoodbut mostly it was because cooking was something she never really learned how to do. I just dont know how to season,she says.

Mom was the product of a single-parent household, back when the Beaver family was still a model home, but microwave dinners were first en vogue. Her widowed mother worked full-time, so ensuring there was food to eat was more important to her than the preparation, and extravagant cooking for just the two of them was unrealistic. Grandma was the product of the depression, where children were taught to eat what they were served and commodities like eggs and butter and milk were treated like delicacies. It is not surprising that when my mother became the head of the household, homemade cooking was not a priority. It is our family joke that when my sister was a baby, she thought the ding of the microwave meant dinner.

But there was one dish that always warmed our little one-bedroom duplex in Ojai, California, where we lived while I was growing up, and one dish that my mom still makes today, to warm her rustic cabin nestled in the fishing village of Stonington, CT, during blizzards and power outages and whenever I come to visit. 

Homemade macaroni and cheese. 

This macaroni and cheese is no blue-box-blues, packet-of-cheese, processed concoction. No, this is two blocks of sharp cheddar, one yellow, one white, grated by hand and layered with care. One layer of macaroni, one layer of cheese, splash of cream, a sprinkle of salt and pepper, layer by layer until Italian breadcrumbs are laid to rest on the top. This macaroni and cheese is the kind that you must bake for an hour, so the top layer of cheese gets crispy and the boiling and bubbling juices are visible to hungry, antsy children peeking through the oven window.

My moms macaroni and cheese are what family dinners are made of. This is one dish my mom made that my dad always loved. My great-grandmother taught my grandmother how to make it and my grandmother taught my mother and my mother taught my sister and me. The recipe has changed a bit with each chef, but the meal remains a symbol of warmth and family and love. It is an example that I cant cookand I cant seasondoesnt mean one cannot make something delicious. It means one parent still means family and is a homage to the microwaves own parents: the oven.

Recipe for Mama Waugh's Homemade Macaroni and Cheese:
1 block (8oz) of white cheese, grated
1 block (8oz) of yellow cheese, grated
1 box macaroni noddles, prepared al dente
1 pint heavy cream
1 cup Italian breadcrumbs
salt and pepper to taste

1. Boil macaroni noodles until al dente.
2. Layer noddles, cheeses and salt and pepper, pouring heavy cream generously over each layer.
2. Pour a layer of Italian breadcrumbs on top.
3. Bake in oven at 350 degrees for 45 to 60 minutes, until crust is crispy and liquid is bubbling.
4. Serve and enjoy!


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