Mac ‘n’ Cheezy

by Sophia (’13)

I’m not one that’s used to being in the kitchen. I mean, I’m used to sitting there and eating (constantly, to boot). But cooking? That’s a whole new playing field. Just recently, I thought I’d try my hand at using the magical Enchanted Fire Maker (otherwise known as a “stove”) and the Really Hot Cave (oven). The first thing I attempted was baking. Baking is easy. Baking is following recipes exactly and time management–two things I do meticulously. I believe the first thing I made were chocolate chip cookie dough brownies. They were amazing. No, really. They were absolutely amazing. I didn’t cook much after that, as I’m pretty lazy and would rather heat up some frozen potstickers than actually mix things in a bowl. I know, it’s pathetic.

But every now and then, I get the urge to really make something. Really put my effort forth, even if it’s adapting something from a box mix. It also pleases my parents when I cook things because it shows that I DO know how to do stuff besides boiling water! Wow! I don’t need a MICROWAVE, I can just put it in a PAN! This reassures them greatly, as I’ll be leaving for college next fall.

Magic doesn’t even begin to cover it.

So lately, I’ve been trying to really challenge myself. I like making omelettes with tofu and veggies and cheese, I like making popcorn with assorted toppings, and I one time even made spaghetti and meatballs with red sauce entirely from scratch (well, canned tomatoes) and BY MYSELF, PLUS a fresh salad and homemade dressing, and even an apple crisp–from scratch, of course. It actually took me quite a few hours over the span of two days because I don’t get to stay home in the afternoons (what is: school) and cook to my hearts desire. However, the dishes were ready just in time and fresh for eating right when I needed them. But that’s very time consuming. We don’t always have time to dedicate two days to cook a meal. Sometimes we need something faster.

So the other day, on my way home from school, I made an agenda in my head. I knew I didn’t have much homework to do. What did I want to do? Cook! When I got home and looked through my list of collected recipes from my secret resources (what is: the Internet), I realized most of my recent findings had been pumpkin-involved. We have several cans of pumpkin puree in the house (from me insisting that I need them to cook). I LOVE pumpkin. I could eat anything pumpkin, all day. Pumpkin soup? Bring it! Pumpkin ice cream? Do you even have to ask?? Pumpkin BREAD? I might die from a pumpkin-induced coma (worth it). However, after looking through all my recipes, I realized that in every one of them, I was missing at least one ingredient. And me, being unexperienced and paranoid, was hesitant to skip it or try to replace it. Who knows how essential that might be for FLAVOR or TEXTURE? Along with ingredient-exactness-anxiety, I suffer from amount-of-thing syndrome– if it calls for 1/4 of a teaspoon, you better bet your bottom dollar it’s going to be 1/4 of a teaspoon (I don’t care if it’s salt or baking powder, you’re getting what you asked for!) So there was obviously no way I’d cook without something possibly essential in the mix. And neither parent was home so we couldn’t go grocery shopping! Oh, the horror!

Luckily, thanks to the power of technology, I was able to text my mother to ask her to pick up a few ingredients for a recipe I was intrigued by: Pumpkin bacon mac n cheese. That’s right. Pumpkin, bacon, pasta, and cheese: the four essential food groups. I don’t think I’ve ever met someone who doesn’t like mac n cheese. Bacon? Only vegetarians and vegans seem to dislike it. And pumpkin is necessary in the fall season. Pasta is something you just don’t question.

My mother, pleased with the idea of me making dinner for her, responded enthusiastically, bringing me home the required alfredo sauce, mozzarella and cheddar cheeses, and short-cut pasta. I set to work.

The recipe called for sautéing  onions and garlic in the bacon grease, but my sister is a vegetarian. Although I hate to deviate from the recipe, I complied so that she wouldn’t starve to death. I set the bacon aside while the pasta cooked and prepared a fresh pan for the onions and garlic. Next up, a whole jar of alfredo sauce, some milk, some spices, and some pumpkin puree. Once that was all cooked, it was time to stir in the cheeses. Have you ever watched cheese melt? I think it’s one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen in my life. 

Finally, FINALLY, I got to put the pasta in the sauce and stir it in. I set aside a portion for my sister, then eagerly stirred in bacon bits. Then I lovingly ladled generous portions for me, my mom, and my best friend (who had come over on the perfect night, the lucky dog, and who had been my awesome sous chef, chopping onions for me and the like), and sprinkled the remaining bacon bits on top. 

Obviously, it was delicious. I mean, it was creamy and cheesy and homemade and a hint of pumpkin and spices like cinnamon and nutmeg and BACON… I was in heaven. My dad and his friend came home later and tried it, and both loved it.

There was a little bit left over, which I put in a tupperware and stored in the fridge. The next day, I could not stop thinking about the leftovers in the fridge. In class, I would start  to daydream. Waterfalls of bacon crashing into a river of cheeses… it was borderline absurd.

All in all, cooking isn’t so bad. I avoided it for years from pure laziness, but the satisfaction of finishing a dish and seeing someone’s face when they try it and really, sincerely enjoy it, is one of the only feelings that comes close to being parallel with finding out your piece has been accepted for publication. And food inspires writing! I mean, look at this! I didn’t know I’d be spending so much time just describing how awesome mac n cheese is!

I guess all I have left to tackle before I go to college is doing the laundry…

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