I grew up in Sioux Falls, SD in the ’60’s. Daddy was a truck driver and Mom was a stay-at-home wife and mother. I never remember there being a lack of food–ever–but now realize that my mother’s simple food was delicious, satisfying and CHEAP. That being said, I remember from a very early age being VERY curious about what other people ate. I saw food then and see food now as an incredibly creative outlet and the best way to bring my family and friends together. It’s exciting to try new things, flavors, and techniques and add them to my repertoire.
For my mom, cooking probably wasn’t so exciting. She had X amount of dollars to feed a family of five for X amount of days. There wasn’t a penny available for embellishments, fancy seasonings and spices or the room for “mistakes”–food that my dad didn’t like and wouldn’t eat. (As children not eating what was put in front of us was NOT an option but dad…that was another story).
She kept a simple larder, made cookies, cakes and pies all from scratch and never failed to keep Daddy smiling (and school lunch boxes full to overflowing with those homemade goodies)! She was considered to be an excellent–even outstanding–cook with an inherent ability to take the simplest ingredients and make something delicious and hearty!
For many years after I left home to join the Air Force in 1979, I walked away from all the recipes that I had been taught to make growing up–girl children did not just get to stand around when meals were being prepared by the women in the family–I guess because I thought they were too simple or too pedestrian and just turned my nose up at them. However, when I started to cook them again for my now nearly teenage children–they fell over themselves devouring Mom’s goulash”–really a kind of chili mac with an uncertain origin and absolutely NO aspirations of authenticity! They also loved Grandma Bren’s (my father’s mother) sour cream cookies (AND her ghost stories about Mrs. House…) and they loved my mom’s soupy (Daddy’s preference) macaroni and cheese!
A long time has passed since those incredibly idyllic memories of childhood were made but I have learned, in my soon to be 54 years, that the legacy recipes from my childhood laid the foundation for my lifelong curiosity for and love of food! Today I’ve abandoned all pretense of trying to surreptitiously tuck humble and guilty childhood pleasures like Chef-Boy-Ar-Dee pizza mix and Velveeta cheese into my grocery cart because I am now quite content in my ability to create their gourmet counterparts but also because of the lines of friends and family jockeying for space in the kitchen and dining room when word gets out that those old “legacy” recipes are on the menu!
Clearly, my mom, my grandmas, and my aunts were on to something!
In honor of Mother’s Day, I will share the first many of those legacy recipes! So, dig up that box of Velveeta that you KNOW you have in the fridge and roll up your sleeves—it’s time to make one of Daddy’s favorites,
Characteristically simple (as with all of my Mom’s recipes) all you’ll need is about half of a 2# chunk of Velveeta, 2 1/2 cups of organic whole milk (I use only Organic Valley because it represents a co-op of hundreds of family farms and pastured, happy cows), 1/2 of a 1# box of good elbow macaroni (I use Barilla) or about two rounded cups of the dried pasta , kosher salt (no chemical after taste–I use Diamond brand), freshly ground black pepper and water!
Fill a large saucepan about 3/4 of the way full with water and add a liberal amount of kosher salt–pasta water should always taste like ocean water in order to adequately season the pasta. Bring the salted water to a rolling boil and add the elbow macaroni–stirring immediately to ensure the pasta does not stick together and then several times while cooking. Cook the pasta for approximately 1 minute less than “al dente'” or about 6 minutes–test for doneness and then drain.
Return the macaroni to the pot and add the 2 1/2 cups of organic milk to the pot and stir. Reduce the heat to medium/low. Cut the 1# portion of the Velveeta into 3/4 to 1″ chunks and stir into the pasta and milk mixture. Continue to stir the mixture over low heat until the Velveeta has completely melted. Do not allow the mixture to come to a boil!!
Once the Velveeta has completely melted, remove your “Soupy” Macaroni and Cheese from the burner and season with kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste! It’s rich and SO good but you should have enough for about 4 soupy, wonderful helpings!