Sunday, December 11, 2011
Kraft Mac & Cheese was the second thing I learned to cook as a child, and for years was one of a very small number of meals I could make for myself. I made it after school throughout my childhood, and I continued to make it often into my college years. In high school, Kirsten and I saved up our box tops and bought "Cheese & Macaroni Club" watches. And, like the 70s yellow happy face necklace we both wore, I still keep mine in the drawer of my jewelry box meant for sentimental items.
And yes, it's specifically the Kraft brand. No other manufacturer has yet been able to capture the certain je ne sais crois that Kraft has, with it's salty turmeric-colored powder cheese. I can handle Annie's Organics in an emergency, but it's never the same. Neither is the generic store brand, or Trader Joe's brand for that matter. It's the blue box and the blue box only for me. I get a little self-conscious when I'm buying it, but I always manage to get a couple boxes in my basket at Target, and I tell myself that other people think I'm buying it for my kids.
So why the defensive posture? With all the talk about eating less processed food, local ingredients, less salt, etc. my favorite comfort food fits nowhere into my ideal diet. But more than that, I am thinking back to a dinner I had a couple years ago with a large group of food people. We all went around the table and told each other what our last meal would be, if we were able to choose. Among the descriptions of Michelin 3-star restaurants, steaks in France, and special home cooking from Mom, I dropped my bomb. "My last meal would be Kraft Macaroni and Cheese in the blue box." The moment I said this, I was met with blank stares, what I would describe as a horrified silence. I think I heard a knife clatter to the floor. If there had been a needle on the record it would have scratched.
What I didn't get to say was Kraft Mac & Cheese means to me. It represents the ability to take care of myself, to cook for myself, a self-sufficiency that I longed for, even as a child. Oh, and it's a salty carbohydrate bomb. If the human brain isn't meant to respond to that, I don't know what it is supposed to respond to. (Wait, I forgot. Bacon.)
So when most women get a birthday gift of jewelry from their boyfriend, it's a diamond, a birthstone, a gold something. Not me. I get a pair of earrings with a replica of my favorite food. That's how I know who loves me.
Labels: Food Photography