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Everyone Likes Macaroni and Cheese

by Em16


When I was 3 years old, my family moved to Japan. My father, a doctor in the Navy, was stationed at Yokosuka, a small naval base about an hour away from Tokyo. I don't remember much about Japan, but the one thing I remember clearly is the mac'n'cheese. 

That seems strange, because Japanese chefs are known for sushi and rice dishes, not American food. But there was an military-owned American-style hotel in Tokyo that my family visited often, and they had the best mac’n’cheese I’ve ever eaten. Without fail, every time I went, I would order the mac’n’cheese. Partially because there weren't many other kid-friendly dishes on the menu, but also because it was really good.

Mac’n’cheese has a long history. The earliest iteration comes from 13th century Italy, in a book called Liber de Coquina (which means “book of cooking”). It consisted of cut-up bits of cooked lasagna coated with parmesan cheese (Wright). In France, they had a similar dish made of pastry dough, cheese, and butter (Bhabha). But most would agree the history of mac’n’cheese in America starts with Thomas Jefferson. In addition to writing the Declaration of Independence and doubling the size of the US with the Louisiana Purchase, Jefferson also introduced mac’n’cheese to the United States. He brought the recipe back from France, along with Parmesan and macaroni noodles, and served mac'n'cheese at a state dinner in 1802 (Rhodes). His daughter was the one who first introduced cheddar cheese to the dish, leading to the mac’n’cheese we know today (Wright).

Over the years, many different version of mac'n'cheese have evolved. Everyone I know has their own recipe that they swear by. My parents' recipe is very traditional, based on a roux mixed with pasta and cheese, baked in the oven, and covered in breadcrumbs. It comes from a cookbook they got as a wedding gift. My paternal grandmother has a different recipe, a lot creamier and without the breadcrumbs, coming from a cookbook she's had since the 1960s. My maternal grandmother buys frozen mac’n’cheese from a Seattle cheese company called Beecher’s. All of their versions are equally delicious, in their own way.

High end restaurants, as well, have put their own spin on mac’n’cheese. You can find variations made with special artisan cheeses, or extras like bacon, broccoli or lobster. Not to mention the many companies that make boxed mac’n’cheese, whether it’s Kraft or a gluten-free, dairy-free company like Daiya.

Why is that? How is it possible that mac'n'cheese is so versatile? How is some form of it found in every facet of American culture?

For me, mac’n’cheese is bigger than just a meal. It has more meaning and more memories than almost any other food, because it was one of the few foods I really loved as a kid. Whenever my parents went out for the night and left me and my siblings with a babysitter, they would make boxed mac’n’cheese. We’d eat it while watching Star Wars and doing a bunch of crazy stuff we wouldn’t do with our parents around. Now when I think of mac'n'cheese, I think of the innocence and simplicity of childhood.

For people living during the Depression, boxed mac’n’cheese was a cheap source of sustenance. For college students, it’s the energy to power through an all night study session (Rhodes). For African Americans, it’s a reminder of their cultural heritage. The first American to cook mac’n’cheese was James Hemming, Thomas Jefferson’s black chef. On plantations, mac’n’cheese was a staple dish for slaves and slaveowners alike (Edgar). It’s universal to all fifty states, North and South, East and West.

For every person, mac’n’cheese means something different. It means a different recipe, with different ingredients, and different preparation styles. It means different memories, of different childhoods, and different parents. But the comfort we feel is the same. No matter who you are, as long as you’re American, you like mac’n’cheese.



Citations:

Rhodes, Jesse. “Marvelous Macaroni and Cheese.” Smithsonian.com, Smithsonian Institution, 22 Mar. 2011, www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/marvelous-macaroni-and-cheese-30954740/.

Wright, Clifford A. “Origin of ‘Macaroni and Cheese.’” Did You Know: Food History , www.cliffordawright.com/caw/food/entries/display.php/topic_id/16/id/105/.

Bhabha, Leah. “The History of Macaroni and Cheese.” Food52, Food52, 7 Mar. 2014, food52.com/blog/9916-the-history-of-macaroni-and-cheese.

Edgar, Gordon. “A Brief History of America's Appetite for Macaroni and Cheese.” Smithsonian.com, Smithsonian Institution, 29 May 2018, www.smithsonianmag.com/history/brief-history-americas-appetite-for-macaroni-cheese-180969185/.


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Wed Jun 10, 2020 2:19 pm
alliyah wrote a review...



Ah I wasn't sure what I'd encounter in an article on Mac & Cheese, but you actually made this topic very sweet and nostalgic. The smooth combination of historical facts plus a nice range of personal anecdotes really makes the piece striking and interesting.

One aspect I'd critique is I'm not sure what exactly the "point" or thesis of this article/essay is. Is the point that as the title claims "everyone likes mac and cheese"? I'm not sure you've made that point, as your conclusion goes back to America, that everyone in America likes mac and cheese. Also I feel like although the essay makes a good point for why it is an integral staple to American cuisine with world-wide ties, I don't think it's fair to say everyone likes mac and cheese, because it's just not factually true! haha, as with any food item, you've always got those picky eaters who will never go for it.

If the point of the essay is just to be informative on the background of mac and cheese and why it's important to you, I feel like the closing sentence should relate back to that aspect rather than the America claim. Figuring out what you want the central "point" of the essay to be is going to make the whole piece more focused, and I think can mainly be done by adding a thesis that links up to a conclusion.

I liked your usage of lots of sources, I would note that sometimes for a formal essay blogs aren't really appropriate sources without giving the blog-author or publisher's qualifications, but that might not be a problem if this is just a casual essay/blog you're writing for fun.

Another critique is that I noticed you consistently write "mac'n'cheese" in your article, but referred to the dish only as "macaroni and cheese" in the title, this felt a little inconsistent and I wondered why it was changed from the title to the piece itself. You could have a sentence that macaroni and cheese is colloquially called "mac'n'cheese" to clarify, or maybe even change your title to just "mac'n'cheese". I felt like the order of paragraphs and information made sense, I thought it was a good opener to start on a personal story to draw the reader in; though I do think this sentence could be improved "Partially because there weren't many other kid-friendly dishes on the menu, but also because it was really good." <- it feels like this sentence is your thesis so far? Or the reason you're choosing to write a whole essay on mac'n'cheese, and it being "kid-friendly" and "really good" are just not strong enough descriptions to warrant the rest of the essay. Maybe you could dig into the emotional impact of the mac'n'cheese a bit more, or make a claim for why it is so important besides just being "good" .

I didn't really have a lot of grammar critiques, there weren't any spelling issues that jumped out, so you did a nice job editing this - the whole piece felt very polished. On the citations, you are missing a date for the Wright Source - if there isn't a date listed for when it was written, you can at least put the date it was accessed from the internet.

Nice work! This was a fun essay to read!

- alliyah

#Team Tortoise

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Em16 says...


Thank you so much for the feedback! I really appreciate it.



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Wed Jun 10, 2020 4:43 am
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EternalRain wrote a review...



Hi Em16!

I decided to read this because I love mac n cheese! I wasn’t aware of a lot of facts (how did I not know Jefferson made mac n cheese popular in the US?!) and that made this really fun to read, on top of the personal element to the essay.

We’d eat it while watching Star Wars and doing a bunch of crazy stuff we wouldn’t do with our parents around.


This personal bit was especially awesome. I think it could strengthen the personal-idea even more if you give concrete examples of “crazy stuff” - because that then can prove the following statement of childhood innocence/playfulness.
Why is that? How is it possible that mac'n'cheese is so versatile? How is some form of it found in every facet of American culture?


I thought the third question here was very well answered in the following paragraphs, but I would’ve loved to see the second one answered a little more (or the question omitted). I would expect that the answer would be something like pasta and cheese allows for many variations, so maybe that could be explored a little more.

But the comfort we feel is the same. No matter who you are, as long as you’re American, you like mac’n’cheese.


Aww this last sentiment in the essay was super sweet (and... comforting ;) ). I do think the phrase “as long as you’re American” sounds a bit weird though- I like the idea of making sure you tie America into it, but it does sound a bit like “only Americans like mac n cheese” although perhaps I’m just twisting it lol.

I like the example in the beginning of you eating mac n cheese in Japan. I think it was a nice way to show how prominent macaroni is to American culture —so prominent it’s in an American themed hotel. A staple.

Last thing I want to say is that I wish the transition from the second paragraph to the third was a little smoother. The topic is a pretty drastic change (personal anecdote to history) so a sentence or two that eases into the history would be really nice so it doesn’t feel as abrupt.

Overall, I really liked this essay!! I learned a lot (I knew 0% of that mac n cheese history!) and your thesis of the comfort of mac n cheese in America was strong and shined. Great work & good luck to your submission! I hope this helped a little.

Peace,
~EternalRain




Em16 says...


Thank you for the feedback! I really appreciate it.




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