I’ve taken a break from this blog for a long time, and is not for a lack of cooking, or even a lack of caring, but rather that I have been going through a lot of very difficult changes. When we go through something hard many of us turn to certain foods; that’s why we call them “comfort” foods. I am convinced we turn to them because they represent our childhood, or they remind us of it. A time that was simpler. Where our pains seem smaller in hindsight, and our life seemed less difficult, less harsh.
For me food is always heavily emotional and sentimental. The best example is German Chocolate cake. My mother made my father German Chocolate cake from scratch every year for his birthday. German Chocolate Cake means love to me. I fell in love with the cake myself. And when my parents died, I was basically adopted by my Uncle and I can still picture this beautiful German Chocolate Cake he and my oldest friend (basically a big sister) got me: It was a round cake with the pecan caramel-y filling in the layers and in a small, perfect circle on top, with a border of chocolate buttercream. German Chocolate Cake means love for me.
I promise to put up my mother’s German Chocolate Cake recipe in the future… when a certain birthday comes around… but today is my ultimate comfort food. The food that I would happily eat every day for the rest of my life is stranded on a dessert island. It is the food I will never get sick of, but the food I tend to make only when I am in the mood: Bacon Macaroni and Cheese.
Macaroni and Cheese has always been something I loved. The earliest I can actually pin-point it is that I was maybe six or seven and my Grandmother on my dad’s side came to visit. Being a loving Grandmother of the mid-west she was dying to make her grandkids a proper meal, anything we liked. And my mother told her our favourite was Mac and Cheese. She went out to the grocery store and got the ingredients to make a beautiful macaroni and cheese, she made the roux – like I will – and baked it and being the very bratty child I was, I turned my nose right up at it and said “That doesn’t look like mac and cheese!”
My mother had to explain to her that we liked Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, it came in a blue box. My mother told me Grandma S. was horrified. She had lovingly made this beautiful mac and cheese and we wanted something from a box. It was my favourite.
Now I realize this is a cooking blog, and some people will raise an eyebrow at me exclaiming the virtues of Kraft Mac & Cheese, but I really did love it. And while I make my own now, I still have cravings for it. It was wonderful, and it still is for me.
But it is more than just that it tastes good (which I realize is an objective thing), it was a part of my life. I wasn’t always in the position I am in now. At that time we would have just moved to the East Coast. My mother was working three jobs to support us while my Dad worked constantly building his own business. That’s what they had to do. We were in a small house with four kids, and luckily I was an only girl, so I got my own room while the boys shared – although I was jealous of their bunk beds. My parents didn’t have much and they were very busy so Kraft was easy and convenient and meant they could spend time with us while letting us stir in the butter for the sauce. That blue box is a part of who I am. It makes up the pieces of me.
Maybe because it was a childhood favourite, maybe because I could probably eat nothing but cheese and die very young and very happy, but Macaroni and Cheese is my ultimate food. And as I got older, I loved it with Bacon! There are sensible reasons for this – the saltiness of bacon breaks through the heaviness of the cheese and milk and the crunch gives you something special in a sea of squish, gooey, lovely cheese. But there’s also something comforting about both – It feels simple, but still has the effort of doing something with love. It feels like food we all loved as kids. And that is equally normal to love as adults (I have found it is less widely acceptable to be a grown woman who likes Cocoa Puffs and FunDip).
Right now a lot is changing in my life. New Country, new job, new friends, new routine, and a separation. New to being alone again. This feels nice. It feels normal, it feels honest. Its comforting.
I hope you like it.
Bacon Macaroni & Cheese
- 6 strips of bacon (cured or uncured to your taste)
- 1/2 pound (8 oz) macaroni – or in my case pasta shells, because they are adorable
- 1 1/2 tbsp butter
- 1 1/2 tbsp flour
- 2 cups milk
- 3 cups cheddar
- ½ cup parmesan
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1 ½ tsp paprika
Preheat the oven to 375F
Line a baking tray with aluminium foil and lay on the 6 strips of bacon
When the oven is at temperature, put the bacon in and cook for directed amount of time
In the meantime bring a saucepan of water to the boil
And heat butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat
When the water comes to a boil, add the macaroni.
When the butter melts, add flour and mix until it becomes thick and even.
Bring to low heat
Add milk 1 cup at a time, stirring occasionally. Once first cup thickens, add the second.
Add cheeses and mix until thick and smooth.
By this time you can drain the macaroni and add to the cheese sauce.
Let the macaroni cook on low in the cheese sauce for another couple of minutes.
Take the bacon out of the oven and chop into pieces.
Add to the macaroni and cheese.
Take off the heat and stir in paprika, and pepper.
Pour into a baking dish and place in the oven (which should still be at 375F)
Cook for a further 25-30 minutes until the top is bubbling and edges are slightly browned.
Eat and enjoy!!