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This American comfort food leads a double life, but only some of us know the secret. It was one of those volunteer duties, the one where you agree to talk to your kid’s class about your job.
I figured it would be easy: I’d ask the kids what their family eats at Thanksgiving and we’d do a middle-school version of Brillat-Savarin’s old saw, “Tell me what you eat and I’ll tell you who you are.” I stood at the wipe-off board and wrote down what the kids called out: Turkey, dressing, pumpkin pie.
Who makes it, how it’s made and who’s allowed to bring it to a gathering involves negotiation, tradition and tacit understanding.
It’s made from scratch and usually involves multiple kinds of cheese, secret touches (eggs and evaporated milk may be involved) and debates over toppings.
I’d learned that America’s beloved comfort food leads a double life.
In black culture, for the most part, macaroni and cheese is the pinnacle, the highest culinary accolade.
Miller found a report in New York’s Amsterdam News, the oldest black newspaper in America, showing that the Harlem Relief and Employment Committee included macaroni and cheese in emergency food baskets in 1930 — seven years before Kraft put it in a box as a convenience product.
So it already was a known dish and already had a role as inexpensive and filling.
You might make it from scratch for a filling meal, but it’s also so simple, any kid can make it: Tear open the box, boil the macaroni, dump in the powder, stir in the milk.
We bring friends to Thanksgiving, gather blended families and define ourselves in our menus. “I hate to brag, but people really love my cooking,” she says.
Maybe it’s time we discuss this: Is it macaroni and cheese? LET DOWN BY PATTI LABELLE Mimi Beal, 52, sums up macaroni and cheese simply: “It’s EVERYTHING.” A native of Cleveland who now lives in Charlotte, Beal’s family is a product of the Great Migration, when African-Americans left the South for more opportunity in the North. “I do everything — I’ll do any sides, the meat, I plan the menu, I am my mother’s assistant.
’ ” For Donoghue, though, that box is a symbol of freedom. And it gave you instant gratification that I fed myself.” As an adult, she started to learn that other people think of it as something so much more than just something from a box.
In college, she was dating a Native American and brought him home for Thanksgiving with her Sicilian family.
” Since college, Donoghue has learned a lot about macaroni and cheese.