I dedicate this blog to my dad...my very first cooking mentor.
Towards the end of 2015, I had been thinking more and more about the foods that I loved as a child. My favorite? Mac & cheese. Love it! But, unfortunately, my clean eating altered my taste buds to the point where every ounce of chemical injected substance can be tasted once it is fresh out of the box.
If I really wanted to convert back to childhood and indulge in this beloved dish, I will have to make it from scratch. January 1, 2016 I treated my husband and I to Giada De Laurentiis' venetian mac and cheese. The results? The dish, and the experience of cooking it, was out of this world. For the first time, I took the risk and invested in freshly imported cheeses from Italy, to collaborate with the flavors of the ham and wheat egg noddles that are required. Although, the recipe was quite different from a traditional southern style flavor, it was still incredible! *Just on the side of caution - Fontina cheese is very strong. If you live in a smaller space, chances are, an old shoe scent will linger around the your habitat for a couple of days.
Looking back on that experience, I had done something for myself that I never did before. I took a childhood memory and transformed it into a mix of familiar comfort and the risk of trying something new...And the outcome exceeded beyond my expectations. Once I came across that realization all I could think about was, maybe this is what I am setting myself up to do this year...
Fast forward to six months later, I was determined to make southern classic dishes for my friends, from France. I wanted to give them a true experience of the south. One dish in particular? Mac & cheese. Not only was I determined to make the classic southern style mac & cheese for them, but I really needed to do it for me. I wanted to know if I could truly tackle this dish that has very little ingredients, yet it is so easy to mess up. Knowing this, I found the challenge to be far more intimidating. The results? Given, that I randomly selected one of the many smoked gouda and cheddar mac & cheese recipes, I will say that fresh out of the oven, I had mastered the very flavor and texture I've been missing so much. My inner child was beaming with joy! The only downfall (and this I find for most mac & cheese recipes) is that is doesn't keep well, in other words, it's a terrible leftover.
I've always heard the slogan that people come into your life for a reason, a season, ect. But what about memories? Do memories come into our lives for a reason and a season? Are those childhood memories there to remind us to stay true to the very things that bring us joy in life?
At the end of the day, I feel like this favorite food is no accident, no coincidence. And there is something, now, to be said when discovering that I, too, have the power of creating this dish regardless of where my inspiration takes me. I will continue to make it southern style when I think of the love pouring from my family, back in Texas. And I will continue to seek out different versions of this dish when I'm in the mood to feed the adventurer in me. Either way, it will always be a part of me that craves comfort and love, something that I feel is a need in all of us.