Mom’s Mac and Cheese
● By Style
Illustration by John Stricker
Since this is the food issue, I was going to present a little Q&A with Guy Fieri.
After all, my wife and I enjoy the occasional meal at his Roseville restaurant, Johnny Garlic’s. That oughta grant me some kind of access, right? But it turns out Mr. Diners, Drive-ins and Dives is a tad busy. Fact is, he’s harder to reach than a 12-year-old playing Call of Duty. So instead, I offer something far more valuable: the recipe to the best thing I have ever eaten, my mom’s homemade macaroni and cheese. Please know right up front there is absolutely nothing healthy about it. This is vintage ‘50s comfort food, from a time when cars didn’t have seat belts and you could smoke around babies. The main ingredients are butter, whole milk, flour, salt and half a brick of Velveeta. If you know a good heart surgeon, put them on speed dial, and read on.
First, melt a couple tablespoons of butter into a pan and stir in enough flour that it starts to coagulate. Then pour in enough milk to thin it out – similar to the blood thinners you may need to take after you’ve eaten this dish. Now, as it’s bubbling, reduce the heat, take a knife, and saw off a huge hunk of Velveeta. It should plop into the pan and begin melting reluctantly, at about the rate you’d expect from “cheese” that needs quotation marks. Since this takes a while, find something to do. My mom used that time to strain the noodles. She’d also wax the floors, help me with my homework, and go pick up my dad from work.
When the once-proud Velveeta-berg has finally rendered itself to the sauce, stir a bit more. Note: the final color will not be the clown-hair orange of the box variety. If made properly, it’ll be a jaundiced-yellow, about the same hue and consistency as a molten rain slicker. Now, pour the entire concoction over the noodles. Added bonus: watching it ooze through the clear sides of the serving bowl, a slow cascade of nuclear goo that fascinated me like a home science project. Mix it all together and that’s it...unless you’re feeling zesty like my mom did sometimes when she’d sprinkle paprika on top. My dad always thought that was a nice touch.
Plunging in for a serving, you should be met with an adhesive-like thickness that will seem to wrestle you for the spoon. Fight through it. Pulling free requires effort and will be accompanied by a moist, slurping/sucking sound – similar to what you’d hear pulling an arm free from the mouth of a nursing calf. Not that I’ve ever done that. Then, and only then, do you glop the serving onto your plate and dig in.
The soft, creamy flavor was like a balm on my tastebuds. As I savored every forkful, time itself seemed to slow down...although looking back, it was probably just my metabolism. I did go through a chunky period from fourth to sixth grade when my pants-size was “husky” and any corduroys I wore made a “voop-voop-voop” sound when I walked because my thighs rubbed together. Those were also the golden years of mom’s mac and cheese. At about seventh grade she started serving healthier stuff like stir-fry. I slimmed down, but to this day, I hate stir-fry.
So there you go. Maybe if Guy Fieri ever returns my calls, emails, Facebook posts and sky-written messages, I will offer him this recipe as a token of my goodwill. Until then, it’s just yours – and your cardiologist’s – to enjoy.
Find more of Tom's Takes here, and make sure to catch Tom on the Pat and Tom Morning Show on New Country 105.1.