Lockdown Day 32: A History of Cooking, Part 2 / Encierro Día 32: Una Historia de Cocina, Parte 2

La versión español está después de la versión inglés.

EVEN AFTER “THE SOUTH END SHRIMP Scampi Disaster of 1981” (yesterday’s post), San Geraldo was still not convinced that taking turns cooking was a bad idea. Once I got to know him better it seemed especially odd behavior. After all, 10 years later he had an all-out panic attack and phoned Yale University Urgent Care twice when he realized he had eaten a farm-fresh green bean that might have touched another green bean that might have had a tiny bit of white mold on it before it was washed. How could this same person not have been a little concerned about being fed shrimp or clams by the likes of me?

Anyway, the weekend after rubber shrimp scampi, sandy baked stuffed clams, and mushy broccoli, SG returned for my specialty, Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. I had been cooking Kraft Macaroni and Cheese since the days you could buy five boxes for a dollar at the supermarket. I think the price by that time had soared to three boxes for a dollar.

During my college years, my gourmet touch was to add a cut-up boiled hot dog. I then graduated to Bacos bacon-flavored bits. Before long, I was proudly preparing my bacon bits “from scratch.” I fried bacon in a pan until it was crispy, placed it on a paper towel to soak up the grease, and I then folded over the paper towel and crushed— by hand mind you — the bacon into bits, which I then had to carefully pick out of the paper towel fibers. I will never be mistaken for Julia Child (or José Andrés).

Something I didn’t mention when I told you about my vast experience cooking and eating Kraft Macaroni and Cheese was that I always cooked one entire box for myself, even though the box read “serves four.” Also, I never bothered serving it on a plate or in a bowl. I stirred the packet of powdered “cheese,” the stick of butter, and the quarter-cup of milk right into the large pot I had used to cook the pasta. I then stood over the stove with a spoon and ate it while it was hot — directly from the pot.

SG had told me to just do what I always did. But I realized there were limits. I would serve it on plates.

I cooked two boxes at once in that same large pot. I stirred in the two packets of powdered “cheese” and the made-from-scratch bacon bits. I then split the contents of the pot onto two dinner plates. In hindsight, a sprig of parsley might have been a nice touch.

The macaroni and cheese was no longer steaming hot, which disappointed me, by the time I carried the plates to the table. We sat down and placed our paper napkins (SG of course owned cloth ones) on our laps. SG stuck his fork into the yellow-orange mound on his plate intending to come back with a forkful.

Instead, the entire mound moved as one unit. The macaroni and cheese had cooled and hardened into a plastic-like mountain and lifted off the plate in one solid piece.

“I usually eat it right from the pot,” I explained.

We grabbed the car keys and headed over to Boylston Street for a decent dinner at Ken’s By George. And that, my friends, is why San Geraldo cooks and I clean up.

.

INCLUSO DESPUÉS DE “EL SOUTH End Desastre de Gambas al Ajillo de 1981” (la entrada de ayer), San Geraldo todavía no estaba convencido de que turnarse para cocinar era una mala idea. Una vez que lo conocí mejor, me pareció un comportamiento especialmente extraño. Después de todo, 10 años después tuvo un ataque de pánico y llamó dos veces a Atención de urgencia de la Universidad de Yale cuando se dio cuenta de que había comido una judía verde fresca de la granja que podría haber tocado otra judía verde que podría haber tenido un poco de moho blanco, antes de lavarlo. ¿Cómo podría esta misma persona no haber estado un poco preocupada por ser alimentada con camarones o almejas por personas como yo?

De todos modos, el fin de semana después de gambas de camarones de goma, almejas rellenas al horno de arena, y brócoli blando, SG regresó para mi especialidad, Macarrones con Queso de Kraft. Había estado cocinando Macarrones con Queso de Kraft desde los días en que podías comprar cinco cajas por un dólar en el supermercado. Creo que el precio en ese momento se había disparado a tres cajas por dólar.

Durante mis años universitarios, mi toque gourmet fue agregar un hot dog hervido cortado. Luego me gradué en Bacos, en su mayoría químicos, con sabor a tocino. En poco tiempo, estaba orgullosamente preparando mis pedacitos de tocino real. Frité el tocino en una sarten hasta que esté crujiente, lo coloqué sobre una papel de cocina para empapar la grasa, y luego doblé sobre la toalla de papel y aplasté, a mano, el tocino en pedazos, que luego tuve que cuidadosamente recoger de las fibras del papel. Nunca me confundirán con Julia Child (o José Andrés).

Algo que no mencioné cuando te conté sobre mi vasta experiencia cocinando y comiendo Macarrones con Queso de Kraft fue que siempre cocinaba una caja entera para mí, a pesar de que la caja decía “sirve cuatro”. Además, nunca me molesté en servirlo en un plato o en un cuenco. Agité el paquete de “queso” en polvo, la barra de mantequilla, y la taza de leche directamente en la olla grande que había usado para cocinar la pasta. Luego me puse de pie sobre la estufa con una cuchara y la comí mientras estaba caliente, directamente de la olla.

San Geraldo me había dicho que hiciera lo que siempre hacía. Pero me di cuenta de que había límites. Lo serviría en platos.

Cociné dos cajas a la vez en esa misma olla grande. Agregué los dos paquetes de “queso” en polvo y los trocitos de tocino hechos a partir de cero. Luego dividí el contenido de la olla en dos platos. En retrospectiva, una ramita de perejil podría haber sido un buen toque.

Los macarrones con queso ya no estaban calientes, lo que me decepcionó cuando llevé los platos a la mesa. Nos sentamos y colocamos nuestras servilletas de papel (SG, por supuesto, las de tela) en nuestros regazos. SG metió su tenedor en el montículo amarillo-naranja en su plato con la intención de volver con un poco.

En cambio, todo el montículo se movió como una unidad. Los macarrones con queso se habían enfriado y endurecido en una montaña de plástico y se habían levantado del plato en una sola pieza sólida.

“Por lo general, lo como directamente de la olla”, le expliqué.

Tomamos las llaves del coche y nos dirigimos a Boylston Street para una cena decente en el restaurante Ken’s By George. Y eso, mis amigos, es la razón por la cual San Geraldo cocina y yo limpiamos.

Eight months later. Totally delicious. / Ocho meses después. Totalmente delicioso.

Author: Moving with Mitchell

From Brooklyn, New York; to North Massapequa; back to Brooklyn; Brockport, New York; back to Brooklyn... To Boston, Massachusetts, where I met Jerry... To Marina del Rey, California; Washington, DC; New Haven and Guilford, Connecticut; San Diego, San Francisco, Palm Springs, and Santa Barbara, California; Las Vegas, Nevada; Irvine, California; Sevilla, Spain. And Fuengirola, Málaga..

34 thoughts on “Lockdown Day 32: A History of Cooking, Part 2 / Encierro Día 32: Una Historia de Cocina, Parte 2”

  1. I now see why you don’t cook. how the hell did the M&C get so cold so quickly? but you 2 are totes adorbs; and WHAT is SG implying with that tongue?????

    1. anne marie:
      Maybe I was too slow when I stirred it. But that’s why I started eating it over the stove in the first place. Oh… so many photos of that tongue.

  2. Thanks for the morning laugh. I can well imagine the plastic glob having fed more than my fair share of Kraft M&C to four kids during their growing years. Heaven forbid if you didn’t get that pan in for a quick soak, if not a complete wash, once you finished or you might as well throw it out. Plastic indeed.

    1. Mary:
      I can still picture SG with his fork in that pile of … Even he couldn’t pretend it was “fine.”

  3. Two things slayed me:

    #1: “by hand mind you”

    and B: “I usually eat it right from the pot.”

    Thanks for the snorts and chuckles and guffaws.

  4. I myself was never a fan of Kraft marconi and cheese…but opted for homemade marconi and cheese with sharp white cheddar. Other times i will do the same recipe but do more a casserole and layer it with onion and tomato. Poor SanGerdlo.

    Meanwhile your story did help me yesterday. I made shrimp scampi for dinner.

    1. Mistress Maddie:
      I never even had mac and cheese when I was a kid. So I thought that was how it was supposed to be. Imagine my shock the first time I had the real thing. I assume your shrimp scampi did NOT bounce?

  5. College food back in the 60s was hideous, so when I moved off campus with a roommate, I learned to make pasta sauce with meatballs from mom. My need for good food was highly motivating. I will admit that in my single days I would often eat “right from the pot” because cleaning a dish just seemed like a waste of time. Challenge: make mac and cheese from scratch with a gourmet cheese laddened bechamel. Yum.

    1. Frank:
      As an indication of my minimal requirements at the time, I loved dining hall food. You don’t actually think I’m going to take you up on your challenge, do you?

  6. I ate a river of Kraft Dinner when I was at university too. I still get a craving for it every once in a while — maybe twice a year. But at least I don’t eat it right out of the pot. I’m not an ANIMAL.

    1. Debra:
      Well, some place just have more class than others. I bought Kraft Mac n Cheese for old time’s sake when SG was traveling on business in the early 2000s. Nope. Didn’t like it anymore. But I was still an animal and ate directly from the pot.

  7. HA! That’s the best! Personally I love a good congealed starch, like clumpy rice or pasta, but that’s just me. I love how you put “cheese” in quotation marks.

    1. Steve:
      Kraft claims to use real cheese and cream now, but at that time I think it was almost entirely (if not entirely) artificial. I didn’t want to mislead. I’m not a big fan of congealed masses of starch.

  8. Glad you two got that all sorted – go with your strengths, right?

    I must admit that I’m still a fan of mac and cheese from a box. These days I add more cheese, throw in tiny cherry tomatoes, capers, and canned tuna. Back in the day, I was lucky if I could afford a can of tuna to add. Ate a lot of ramen noodles (5 packs for a dollar!), too. I was pretty poor while I was at university and a few years after. Still love ramen, too.

    1. Wilma:
      I had never even heard of Ramen Noodles when I was in school. Finally had it in the ’80s and it was so salty I couldn’t even get through it. Have never tried any since. SG said that was HIS go-to in his university days. My other stand-by was Hamburger Helper. Remember that?!?

  9. My little sister’s favorite Kraft macaroni and cheese and my brother liked it with that hotdog and a pickle. I have to say that I do not understand what happened between the stove, the plates and the dining room to make it uneatable. There must have been some delay in the transmission of the order. LOL! Obviously Gerry married you for your other talents and scintillating personality not your cooking skills.

    1. Larrymuffin:
      I always found that Kraft Mac n Cheese cooled really quickly. Even when we did communal dinners at university, we’d be sure to dish up and eat really fast before it set. So glad I have so many other scintillating talents!

    1. Urspo:
      I’m glad. I had a really good time writing and remembering it. We still laugh about it.

  10. Well, it’s still Wednesday here, and BH has reset my computer so I can read your blog again. Yay! Unfortunately, it is about ten p.m. and now I’m laughing too hard to sleep! Kraft mac and cheese was a staple in my newlywed household. It was the first thing BH ever cooked for me. He added cut up breakfast pork links to it for extra pizzazz. We were kind of broke and eating beans every other day, so this was a luxury. I learned to mix the powder with the melted butter and milk before adding the macaroni. Made it smoother. I started jazzing it up with a base of extra milk and cheese slices, adding extra slice on top and warming it in the oven. That stuff was very versatile. I prefer the kind with the cheese already processed in that foil packet now. A lot less work. I also like the things clumped together. I do know how to make homemade, and I prefer to do it with American cheese.
    I’m still chuckling. You guys are so funny.

    1. Deedles:
      Oh, I’m so glad! BH has earned his keep for the week. I’ve never had Mac n Cheese with the new foil packet… and probably never will. Very gourmet.

  11. I, too, did the Kraft M&C thing when first out on my own. I couldn’t resist that price, especially since half my monthly income went to rent. I allotted myself $15/week (yes, fifteen) for groceries. After one Thanksgiving, my grandmother gave me the bones from the turkey. I intended to replicate her delicious turkey noodle soup. I boiled the bones in water. I added nothing else. No herbs, no spices, not even salt. I didn’t own a cookbook, you see. It was awful. You’ve come a long way, baby.

    1. Walt the Fourth:
      When I was at University, I shared a house with four other guys. Our weekly chip-in for groceries was $15! Oh, wow, your turkey soup! YOU’VE come a long way!

  12. Goodness how could your M&C get that cold that fast ?
    Funny I was thinking of getting a box and making it for old times.
    parsnip

    1. Parsnip:
      Haven’t had it for years. But it always got cold quickly. Maybe I took too long stirring it. But that’s why I started eating directly from the pot.

Share your thoughts and experiences. It's always nice to know I'm not alone.