a tale of two cheeses

Both Rhiannon and I grew up with moms who did the majority of the day-to-day food preparation in our houses, and we both grew up in households that ate home cooked meals together as a family more often than not. This a tradition we have done our best to carry over to our own life together and something we plan to do when we have children of our own.

(This may require that we actually sit at our table instead of on the couch in front of the TV, but hey, everyone makes sacrifices.)

On Saturday, Rhiannon and I invited Tyler over for supper. We made a raspberry vinagerette, apple, cashew, and craisin salad, some pan-fried seasoned chicken, and macaroni and cheese from a recipe we found online.

Macaroni and cheese is one of those comfort foods that a lot of people have childhood memories about. In Rhiannon’s house, it was macaroni with Velveeta melted over the top. For her, a helping of noodles with the almost-blindingly bright yellow artificial cheese substance dripping over the top mean a warm meal and a nap on the couch.

For me, it was the blue-box, powder-out-of-the-packet, mix-with-milk goodness of Kraft. My own dad didn’t think highly of this culinary treat and so it was reserved for occasions when he was out of town or had a dinner meeting. I remember using my plate with high edges because the mac and cheese was just runny enough that I would end up scraping it off the edges of a normal plate. With a hearty coating of pepper, it’s still a great meal in my memory.

Our macaroni and cheese we made this weekend was a little different than what either one of us grew up with. It involved making a rue from melted butter and flour, tearing bread into crouton sized pieces for a crispy topping, baking in an oven, and using over one and half pounds of cheese to coat a pound of macaroni.

We used two different types of cheeses, one of which I don’t know how to pronounce, can’t remember the name of, and a half of pound cost the same as a 6-pack of Kraft blue boxes.

It was good. It was really good. It was thick and gooey and cheesy and crunchy all at the same time.

And yet, given the choice between this “gourmet” style macaroni and cheese and the Kraft (or Velveeta) recipes of our youth, I think we would have to stop and consider the options. Because even though the simple dishes may not have the flavor and complexity of our latest recipe, they have meaning.

They mean home. And that’s something that no $15-per-pound dairy product can reproduce.

Thanks Mom, for creating a place for me to grow up in that I can remember like that.

Happy Mother’s day.