Chow Bella

Quit Messing with Mac and Cheese

What happened to good, old-fashioned mac and cheese?
What happened to good, old-fashioned mac and cheese? Laurie Notaro

I don't know what macaroni and cheese did to anybody. But by the looks of some recent menus, it must have been pretty bad.

I've been paying attention. In the last several years, the simple dish of mac and cheese has seen some transformations. Chefs put bacon in it. Scoop it up into balls and fry it. Make it with another cheese, like Roquefort or gouda.

You know, shake it up a little bit.

And I get it, I do. Even the best of staples need some refreshing or a face lift now and then. We all age, some better than others. The problem is that with the refreshing, you can either turn back the hands of time with a surgeon with steady hands or end up looking like a tightened death mask by someone who doesn't know when to stop on those cheek fillers.

Sure, add bacon to a bowl of mac 'n' cheese, and you end up with something delightful. I even like the little fried balls. Throw in some jack or blue cheese; it adds a nice edge. But some people aren't satisfied with that, and feel the need to go a step further.

That's how you get the mac and cheese burger that I saw on a menu last week. At first. I raised my eyebrows, thought, "Hmmmm?" and then, a moment later, "Why?"

Why did I need a mac and cheese burger? Would I even be able to tell it was a mac and cheese burger? Was there any point in which my desire for both a burger and mac and cheese at the same time were so fiery that they needed to be joined in food matrimony? No. They didn't. They are perfectly fine as friends. They don't need to date.

That's going to ruin it for everybody.

Honestly, that's not even the worst mac and cheese defilement I've seen chefs display on a menu. One offering had lobster in it. It was $25. That's like setting up Honey Boo Boo with a Rhodes scholar. It just doesn't work, or shouldn't anyway. A food truck down the street from me sells a mac and cheese grilled sandwich. Some awful, degenerate person has invented a mac and cheese taco, with the ingredients involved as "taco seasoning, ground beef, and a package of hard taco shells."

Why would anyone do that to such a nice food? Mac and cheese is basically just a bowl of smiles, dressed in the glory of God's perfect food, only melted. These are just some of the atrocities that are on record of happening in the kitchens of the world's most awful cooks: There's the mac and cheese pot pie, and it should come to no surprise to anyone that the madman behind this dish was a Boyardeelicious Recipe Contest Finalist.

If that was tried in Food Court, that person would be convicted and ordered to stay 150 feet from macaroni and cheese for at least 18 months. Then there's the mac and cheese pizza, which is described as "fun." What? FUN? I gulped in horror when I saw it, then covered my mouth when the originator listed Chris Bianco's pizza dough as a base.

I'm not telling him, and you shouldn't, either. Let the man live out his days without knowing that he had anything to do with this grotesque, hideous creation. If this thing had legs and two bolts, it would give a little girl a flower and then strangle her with an overzealous hug.

The internet is full of bad, bad things people have done to mac and cheese while referring to themselves as "innovative." I actually saw a mac and cheese meatloaf, and if you think that sounds horrible, it looks even worse. I think I'd rather watch my own autopsy than try to figure out what that gray mass with squiggly noodles in it was all about. How does someone come up with that? There's one of only two ways: being trapped inside your house by an extended, unprecedented ice storm or a drinking problem. Any other option calls for medication that requires a signature when you pick it up.

So that brings me to plea to chefs and restaurateurs across the globe; or at the very least, some of the limited places I might travel to: Hands to yourself when it comes to the mac and cheese. We can forget the atrocities committed upon the closest thing to the perfect food on earth if you will just back away and promise not to fiddle with it any more. You are doing harm, not good. And isn't that against some oath you took? Because, as I said before, a bowl of mac and cheese is nothing but a bowl of smiles.

And all it takes is one wrong move to turn that smile upside down.

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Laurie Notaro