Mac and Cheese

How I envied some of the kids in my neighbourhood as I was growing up! Their mothers prepared Macaroni and Cheese for dinner while mine turned her nose up at even the mention of it. “It’s what poor people eat” she would huff with that well known purse of the lips; though exactly what socio-economic group she thought we shoe-horned into I’m not really sure. So an invitation to join the Arsenaults across the road for mac and cheese was a special treat. And yes it was probably Kraft but to my mind it was exotic, I knew I wouldn’t get it at home, and it was a chance to enjoy what “poor people” ate.

Fast forward to our first house – a townhouse in darkest recesses of suburban Hunt Club. I had a Simac electric pasta maker — you put the flour, water and sometimes eggs into the bowl, it mixed and kneaded it, you opened the trap door to extrude the pasta through brass dies in the shape chosen and you cut it off at the length preferred. It was easy and quick, if a bit noisy. One of the more nosy kids in the neighbourhood, probably spurred on by an equally nosy mother, asked me what that noise was coming through our kitchen window. I said I was making my own macaroni – the eyes went wide. Wow that was pretty cool. So to ingratiate myself with the community I offered all the kids and non-working mothers in our walkway the chance to make their own.

One August lunch time mothers and kids gathered on our deck and we made macaroni. The kids had fun taking turns cutting the lengths and waited patiently as I turned their work into mac and cheese. When it was served with homemade lemonade there was a silence. Bites were taken, tastes were tried but noses were turned up! Something wasn’t right. Most of it was left unfinished! What was wrong – I had used homemade pasta, cream, and good quality aged cheddar. Then I realized it wasn’t Kraft dinner! First, it was the wrong colour – mac and cheese should be sort of a day-glo orangey-yellow. Second, it didn’t taste of whatever chemicals Mr Kraft puts into his processed cheese food powder. It just wasn’t Mac and Cheese the way mother made! I learned my lesson – no more pearls before swine! Little did those ungrateful piglets know that they were turning down a dish that later in life that trendy restaurants would be billing them $18-30 dollars for. Mac and Cheese is no longer for the “poor”.

I’m not sure when it all began but there are few places now that don’t offer Mac and Cheese as the ultimate comfort food. And often at an uncomfortable price. Of course it is no longer just pasta, milk and cheese – it’s now “gourmet” mac and cheese with all manner of fancy additions. I hear that there is now a “Hawaiian” mac and cheese with ham and pineapple. To that I say “NO! Just NO!” – pineapple does not belong on pizza or in mac and cheese. No discussion! The favourite here is Lobster Mac and Cheese with Mixed Seafood a close second. However last night we only had a bag of precooked shrimp on hand so …. Shrimp Mac and Cheese it was.

Two of the small Shrimp Mac and Cheese casseroles set aside for another day. A left click on the photo will take you to Chef Michael Smith’s recipe – a real winner in my opinion.

My friend Nora, no not that Nora the other Nora, mentioned she had used Michael Smith’s recipe for Lobster Mac and Cheese last week and substituted shrimp with success. Now Michael Smith is a force to be reckoned with here on the Island and Nora knows her food so …… A left click on the photo above will take you to the recipe.

And we have a winner! I’ve found my go-to recipe for Mac and Cheese. Creamy and cheesy but with a nice bite to it and it perfectly complimented the shrimp without overpowering it. Smith says it serves 6 but as we were only two I halved the recipe. Those six servings must be very large as even making the adjustments I ended with enough, to my mind at least, to feed six.

I just remembered that we have some frozen cooked lobster in the freezer so next week I’ll try the original. I have a feeling it will be just as delicious.

The word for July 31st is:
Macaroni /ˌmakəˈrōnē/: [noun]
1.1 A variety of pasta formed in narrow tubes often bent into elbows in North America.
1.2 An 18th-century British dandy affecting Continental fashions.
Late 17th century: from Italian maccaroni (now usually spelled maccheroni ), plural of maccarone, from late Greek makaria ‘food made from barley’.
Because it was an exotic dish in England in the 1700s when certain young men who had travelled the continent were affecting French and Italian fashions and accents it became a mocking term for these young blades amongst the older generation – sort of like millennial today?

Beaching – In Other Times

While I have been waxing prosetic* on outings to the beaches of PEI over at SailStrait Harry Holman has been looking back on outings in the days when beaches were not as accessible as today.

Prince Edward Islanders gather for a picnic by the shore – circa 1880
Photo: Canada’s History Magazine

So pack up your picnic basket, bring out your sunshade, dust off the straw boater and make sure Aunt Maev has her shawl for later in the day. We’re heading down to harbour for an afternoon’s outing one sunny August day in 1877.

*Yes I’m aware that it isn’t a word but it should be! If I can wax in verse I should be able to wax in prose.

Sailstrait

On hot summer days it is refreshing to think that for many of us getting to the beach is only a matter of jumping into a car and heading out. This ease of access to the sea shore is a relatively recent phenomena for Charlottetown. In spite of being a port the shoreline is remarkably inaccessible as there is not a really good beach within the city limits. There was bathing at Victoria Park and Kensington Beach and for the uninhibited there was always the attraction of swimming off the wharves. But this was hardly a family or social activity. Accessing a real beach meant a train ride to Hunter River or Bedford and then by wagon to Rustico or Tracadie where there were summer hotels, a round trip that could easily take all day.  Or one could take the Southport ferry and then go by carriage to Keppoch or…

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Día de los Muertos – Mixquic 1987

The second Feast of Allhallowstide is the Day of the Dead. As a way of remembering those who have went before I’m harkening back to a Día de los Muertos thirty years ago in San Andrés Mixquic that I wrote about a decade ago.  A  left click to “View original post”  will take you to a slideshow of the celebration of loved ones remembered.

Willy Or Won't He

As I worked on the posting for November 2 – All Soul’s Day – one of those little memory drawers opened and I recalled a Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) fiesta back in 1987. Laurent was in Mexico City on his first posting. I was able – through juggled work schedules and thanks to working for an airline – to get down for a month at a time once every two or three months. We were lucky – the peso was low, the economy booming and despite the death and destruction that the 1986 earthquake had caused, the city and country was vibrant and bustling.

Part of learning about the culture was realizing that the images of death were always present – as a theme it ran through art, music, religion and folk traditions. The strange mixture of Aztec and Christian traditions that in another place would…

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