So I’ve been spending a bunch of time with my grandma (the one with the horrifying coleslaw memories. The other one lives with me. See: “A Tale of Two Grandmas…”). Staying in her house always poses a difficult scenario. Growing up I always associated going to my grandparents’ house with vacation. Their house is only about 30-40 minutes from mine but when we lived overseas the commute was significantly…longer (usually about 2 days). So when we’d come to the US we would spend longer amounts of time with my grandparents and I was often exempt from most of my educational obligations.
During the day we’d all eat food my Gma approved of (low sodium, low fat, vegetarian, often vegan, and LOTS of fresh fruits and vegetables). But at night… At night…
When I was a kid my Gpa was still fairly feisty. He and I used to go into his basement office and play Myst and Riven for hours or record books onto tape together. He also used to have, what I now consider to be, the greatest sleeping habits. He’s wake up around 9am to do all his medicines and vitamins. Drink his coffee (thick, black and sweet). Then he’d go through the TV Guide and circle things he’d want to watch. He’d read in-between those things. After lunch he would take a good nap for an hour or so. After nap… more coffee. Then various activities including: Freecell with Gma, ordering new books, garden research, Chinese practice (to keep up with me once I started), Tetris, crosswords… and so much more. He also wrote a book about his time in China at some point. In the evening he and Gma watch “60 Minutes” during dinner and then my Gma would go and get ready for bed while Gpa would settle in for some late night TV and eventually a midnight snack. That’s where I’d usually join in.
On weekends it was the best because we would watch some of our favorite cartoons and shows, like “2 Stupid Dogs” and “Tom and Jerry”.
“2 Stupid Dogs”: Possibly the funniest, dumbest, and most mind shaping show from my childhood.
This is the time of midnight snacking. Cookies and milk. Ice cream. Desserts of all kinds. Saltines with cheddar and Worcestershire sauce (in the microwave for 20 seconds).
So now that I’m older I’m stuck having to help my Gma make her meals now that’s she’s forced to use a walker because of some recent accidents (the woman’s 91 turning 92 next weekend I think she’s earned a little service). So for breakfast it’s toast and fruit with some soy milk (no soy milk for me, thanks) and salad with soup that a swear has absolutely no taste whatsoever but Gma raves about it. And dinner was yogurt (because of the antibiotics in the hospital. Gma, not me) with something warm to drink down all the pills. My grandma also loves tennis. She made sure I knew that Roger Federer is her FAVORITE player and watched at least 3 games of his in a day. I know she likes him as a tennis player but her sitting up straighter in her seat and clapping her hands and smiling/blushing every so often when they show his close-up or he wins would tell a different story. My grandma is adorable.
Roger Federer: My Grandma’s Indulgence
Well after all that healthy food (there was also a faux quiche made without dairy or salt) and watching physically fit people run around on the TV all day I needed to do something after Gma would go to bed in order to counteract it all. My taste buds needed some sort of reimbursement. So I would fall back on a couple old favorites while sitting up late at night playing on Pinterest and watching cartoons or “Top Gear”. Because my mommy loves me (and was more than excited to be able to take the weekend off to get some rest and help out with some international guests) she’d left me fully stocked with the works. Starting with this:
Ben & Jerry’s: “Chocolate Therapy”
As far as I’m concerned this is the top of the Ice Cream Food Chain right now. If you haven’t had it. Go have some. Even I can only eat it in small doses it’s so rich.
Also in the freezer, tucked behind the tower of frozen pizzas my grandma buys for my brother, was this:
I tried it two different ways. On tater tots and on toast. I prefer the traditional method with the sauce over toast but I found another use of the tater tots so it was not a disappointment.
As I was eating my sin on toast I was reminded of the saltines with cheese and Worcestershire meets macaroni and cheese. It was a beautiful thing. Brought me back to when I learned how to make macaroni and cheese from scratch. I’d always had it pre-made or one of those “kits” in a box. My Gma used to buy it for me at Christmas, the kind you put in the oven and you get those yummy burnt bits around the edges.
It was a picnic maybe 3 summers ago. Time is all winky wonky in my universe. It was a picnic for a group my brother was a part of that all the families attend once a year. This year it happened to be in the house of a family where both parents were chefs who now teach cooking lessons somewhere in the Metro DC Area. All the details are fuzzy because I heard them 3rd hand. But whoever/whatever they are, they knew what they were doing in their kitchen. The wife/mother (who’s name I don’t think I ever learned) asked for a hand in the kitchen and my mom offered me up.
So there I was in a rather tiny kitchen space with a wooden spoon encouraging the melting of butter in a large saucepan while she was busy boiling a vat of water for the pasta. Here’s how the whole process was explained to me, keeping in mind that this was for a large number of people:
Put on a really big pot of water on to boil. In a large saucepan melt a stick of butter. Once melted add in a couple table spoons of flour and mix well until it looks a little like apple sauce. Over medium-low heat keep stirring the mixture until it begins to brown at the edges and smell fragrant. Add in about 2 cups of milk (that’s my years-later-guesstimate) and whisk. Then you start adding cheese. She used the pre-shredded stuff in bags. So about 2 bags of cheddar, 1 bag of mozzarella, and 1 bag of parmesan. Add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Mix it all until everything is all melty and gooey. Somewhere in this process you’ve put in 4 boxes of elbow macaroni pasta into the boiling water and it’s cooked al dente. Drain the pasta and pour it into a large oven safe pan or dish and then pour the cheese sauce on top. Mix it all together and then sprinkle more cheddar cheese on top and put in in a 350 F oven for about 15-20 minutes until it’s toasted looking on top.
My brother being a mac & cheese fanatic has asked me to make this several times. For a smaller batch cut the butter to 1/4 stick and lower the amount of milk by about 50% and then add cheese to get the consistency you want. It’s still a lot of cheese no matter how much you’re making.
Needless to say I owe a good two to three hours on the bike with some heavier weights after all the making up eating I did to counter act the salads.
But to end this rant here is a montage of Macaroni and Cheese recipes and variations:
Southern-Style Macaroni and Cheese
Smoked Gouda Macaroni and Cheese
Greek Macaroni & Cheese with Roast Garlic, Caramelized Leeks
Smoked Gouda and Sharp Cheddar Mac and Cheese (with really good “How To” photos)
Beer Mac & Cheese
Fontina Mac and Cheese
Mac and Cheese with Roasted Chicken, Goat Cheese, and Rosemary (Although, in general, I’m not a huge fan of chicken)
Potato Skins Mac and Cheese (Also with good “How To” photos)