Posted by Anna Straughan
Macaroni and cheese is a simple dish, one that most Americans consider a comfort food, but it means so much more to me. I’ve whipped up this go-to meal in the homes of my high school friends many-a-time. Since coming to college, macaroni has also stuck with me as a McDermott Scholar. I discussed the dish twice on my application, brought it up several times during my interviews, and one of my first meals with my cohort, the 2018 McDermott Scholars, was – as luck would have it – grilled mac & cheese.
It may seem a bit odd to praise an ordinary dinner meal, but the significance lies in its simplicity. As an American classic, every family has their own secrets of preparation: a splash of milk here, a sprinkling of paprika there. Yet the dish remains simple and timeless, bringing people together over the stovetop.
Over the years, I’ve developed my own unique recipe for my favorite meal, creating a product that not only tastes like it was made by a dairy demigod (band name still pending), but also leaves the diner totally full after just a small bowl. The origins of the dish date back to eighth grade, when I stumbled upon a recipe for mac & cheese. I used to follow the recipe to the dot. However, as I grew more confident in my culinary skills, I started to experiment with different pasta shapes, cheese blends, and spice combinations.
Cooking, even for a dish like mac & cheese, is an art. With every evolution of the recipe, I contribute a chunk of my identity to its cheesy conception. Throughout the Santa Fe trip for the freshman class of 2018 Scholars, I promoted my mighty mac to anyone who would listen. It didn’t take long for my new friends to ask me for my recipe. A true cook never reveals their secrets, so I smiled and promised I would make everyone dinner once we settled into our new lives as college students.
Their terms of the mac & cheese challenge were simple: finish two bowls of the dish, win eternal glory and enough carbohydrates to power a small city. I warned them that they didn’t know what they were signing up for, but regardless, these brave souls – even the lactose intolerant – stood their ground. Four pounds of pasta and close to seven pounds of cheese later, the ‘18s realized that I wasn’t exaggerating the magnitude of my mac. As I dished out bowls, I could feel everyone’s excitement mounting for the first bite. Soon, ten of us sat down to our first shared meal, one that each of us had a hand in creating. I had talked up my melty masterpiece for the longest time, and I’m glad I was able to put my money where my mouth was.
After an hour of the greatest willpower I’ve ever seen, four of the nine challengers found themselves victorious. Even the defeated, despite being stuffed to the brim, were all smiles.
Nothing brings people together like a meal, especially one that elicits friendly competition, a welcome respite during college midterms. I’m happy that I’ve been able to maintain my tradition of introducing my take on the best meal to ever be invented; and I am excited to have the opportunity to share this experience with my old, new, and future friends.
I hope this post wasn’t too cheesy, and if you want to throw your spoon in the ring for next year, you know where to find me!