In Praise of Mac ‘n Cheese

Sometimes I like to fantasize that I have some sort of backcountry suaveness and culinary instinct, and that I will someday take a special lady somewhere beautiful and make a nice dinner for her and it will be really romantic. But the reality is that this is pretty much the best (only?) trick in my book:

One box of Annie’s Macaroni and Cheese


One packet of Tasty Bite __________



If someone is camping with me, this is enough food for both of us. If I am camping by myself, I just eat the whole goddamn pot, the final third of which requires me to compression breathe between bites.

Then sometimes I go backpacking and camping with other people, and they’re making all kinds of fancy shit with quinoa, couscous, and peanut sauces, and slicing vegetables and sauteing stuff, and I’m like Yo, check this out, you just pour the Kashmir Spinach over the top of the macaroni and cheese and voila.

Usually I say “Voila!” twice and smile, and still no one is impressed.

At the grocery store I feel somewhat ashamed when I’m stacking multiple boxes of macaroni and cheese into a basket, looking over my shoulder because I feel like I’m raising some sort of flag that says “I’m a Guy Who Sucks at Cooking” or something like that. But actually, I just really like eating macaroni and cheese.

A few months ago, I met ice climber Gord MacArthur and found out he loves macaroni and cheese just as much as I do. Like one year a bunch of people got him birthday presents, and one of his friends got him a Bubba Keg and a box of macaroni and cheese and he thought that was the best thing ever. After he told me that story, I was like,


Now I hug Gord whenever I see him, and probably at least 60 percent of the reason for that is because he is so stoked on macaroni and cheese. Gord competes in the Ice Climbing World Cup every year, and is at least partly fueled by macaroni and cheese, so, you know, take that.

Macaroni and cheese, made the old-fashioned way (in the oven), has been around since 1824, its recipe gaining mass popularity thanks to its inclusion in the cookbook The Virginia Housewife, called the most influential cookbook of the 19th century. I don’t know how to make that kind. I do know how to boil water, pour some stuff out of a box, stir it, and eat it. That type of macaroni and cheese celebrated its 75th birthday in 2012. Kraft Macaroni and Cheese Dinner was born in 1937, at the height of the Great Depression, and was likely so successful because that was also the height of people not acting like they were too cool (or wealthy) to eat macaroni and cheese.

There is some part of me that thinks macaroni and cheese is a food for kids who are still in elementary school and I wonder why I’m still eating it. Like grow up, you have a master’s degree and a real job and all. Then I tell myself it’s just white-trash fettuccine alfredo, and I get out a big spoon and heave piles of it into my mouth like I’m shoveling coal into a steam engine to get a freight train up over the mountains.

If I were to draw a graph of my love for macaroni and cheese over the span of my life, it might look like this:

Actually, that’s not what it might look like–that’s what it really looked like when I drew a graph on a napkin the other day. Those data points are of course approximate, and I think I might have drawn the last one a little low.

I suppose people think macaroni and cheese is a little unrefined, maybe because most of the flavor comes from a packet of glowing orange powder? But come on, guys, lots of great things start out as packets of powder: Ramen noodle seasoning, grape Kool-Aid, Lik-M-Aid….

Actually, you know what, never mind.

Maybe what I’m trying to say with all this is if you’re too cool for macaroni and cheese, I am too cool for you. Or perhaps more accurately, you’re too cool for me. But if you’re not too cool for macaroni and cheese, can we go ahead and publicly celebrate it?

Photo by Mark H. Anbinder



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