Who doesn’t dream of a big bowl of Macaroni & Cheese from time to time? This classic American food is a favorite of children, teens, and adults. It can be a side dish or a main dish, paired alongside fried chicken or just a tall glass of white frothy milk.
The foundation of Macaroni & Cheese is made up of two ingredients: the curved, tubular pasta known as macaroni and gooey cheddar cheese. According to food historians, macaroni was invented in China and brought to Italy by Marco Polo, who cooked and served it with cheese in Italian homes and restaurants for over 500 years. By the eighteenth century, the dish became popular throughout Europe, and colonists from England brought along their recipes to North America.
Other sources credit Thomas Jefferson with creating the American version of Macaroni & Cheese. In 1787, Jefferson returned to America from France with a pasta machine acquired in Italy. He proceeded to invent a better pasta machine and, according to documents in the Library of Congress, created “a pie called macaroni.” The description was that of Baked Macaroni & Cheese with the following instructions: macaroni should be cooked until almost done, then combined with melted butter, salt, and grated white or yellow cheese and put it in the oven for 15 minutes or more. Definitely a fact to note for your next dinner party!
Lastly, the third rumored creator was Jefferson’s cousin, Mary Randolph, who is said to have taken over the kitchen after Jefferson’s wife died. While this story has some merit, most foodies say even if Mary Randolph cooked the dish, she was only following Jefferson’s recipe.
In 1937, Kraft’s boxed Macaroni & Cheese hit the grocery shelves in the U.S. and Canada. The easy-to-make product became very popular in World War II when, as part of the war effort, rationing went into effect. In addition, because most of the men were off fighting the war, many women joined the workforce. The combination of a hard day of work, plus the exorbitant price of meat, boosted Kraft’s creation into a best seller.
It is probable that every American child has grown up eating Kraft Macaroni & Cheese at some point. According to a company spokesperson, Kraft sells more than one million boxes of the dinners every day!
Despite the ease of the Kraft version, this week I will profile restaurants and recipes featuring homemade Macaroni & Cheese. Hopefully you can try a homemade version of this famous dish when eating out in Dallas or at your own home.