Feature Writer Karen Crowder – (Not So) Easy Mac

With some seriously wet weather coming our way this weekend, I decided to cook some comfort food that warms you up on damp and cold days. As I was going through my recipes, a perennial favorite of mine popped out–homemade macaroni and cheese.

Macaroni and cheese has always been one of my favorite dishes since I was a kid and my Mom would serve it on many Friday nights. As Catholics, eating meat was forbidden on this day, so some macaroni and cheese was a common go-to meal for us–not to mention that it was quick and easy to make in general. As an eager kitchen helper, my mother would normally have me stir the white sauce, since it was relatively simple to prepare.

Though simple in theory, that sauce did not always cooperate with me. At 21, as a budding cook, I attempted to make that same white sauce for my own mac and cheese. As a child, I was always in charge of stirring and not necessarily the adding of ingredients, or most importantly, the order they were added. I did not realize that I needed to blend the melted margarine with flour before adding the milk. So I added the flour to the melted margarine and assumed that the milk would thicken everything by itself after that. Imagine my surprise when I found a margarine and flour brick shortly thereafter. In a last ditch effort, I allowed it to simmer on the stove, but not even that would not resurrect it. My mom appreciated my attempts to save it, but the sauce had burned–badly. In tears, I gave up making macaroni and cheese. Perhaps it was just a dish for other cooks.

A year later, determined to not let the infamous sauce beat me, I invented an easy recipe. Using my Mom’s blender, after adding milk first, I added melted butter and flour and blended the mixture for a minute, adding the sauce to cooked pasta afterwards. Using that great appliance saved my dish (and my sanity) and reduced my prep time drastically. After spooning everything into a baking dish and topping it with cheddar cheese, it went into the oven for about a half hour. Thus my easy recipe was born, and for a new cook, I felt truly triumphant.

By my mid twenties, I was a voracious reader of Braille cookbooks, always learning as many new recipes as I possibly could. Having found a great method for mastering the art of making a successful white sauce, I was dead set on figuring out how to make new meals. I thank the Braille cookbooks and my mom for giving me specific directions about making white sauce and sticking with me when I felt that all hope for culinary success was lost.

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