Maybe it was that last bit of effort that did me in, or maybe it was the icy cocktail I poured when I returned ... but when I thought about dinner I was suddenly and profoundly tired. Everything seemed too much work and too short on satisfaction. A salad would be easy, but I wanted something more. A sandwich? I'd been settling for that too often. Skip the meal altogether? No, I was hungry as well as tired.
That's when I opened the cabinet and saw that blue box. You know the one. And Kraft Foods Group knows you know. These days, the come-on on the front of the box says, "You know you love it," and a short essay on the back begins with the line, "Imported from your childhood."
In my case, the statement isn't quite true. Even though the product was introduced in 1937, my mother still made macaroni and cheese the old-fashioned way. Because the dish took more work than she liked and because she had a post-war pride in serving us meat daily (Lent excepted), I didn't get mac & cheese at home very often. It was, however, a staple of the public school cafeteria, made and served by hammy-armed ladies in kerchiefs and aprons. Definitely not Kraft.
No, the blue box became more noticeable in my life as a young adult, when it was the cheap and lazy go-to meal in those pre-ramen days. It was said that every unmarried lawyer in our county-seat town carried a box in his briefcase, buried under all the papers.
Then Kraft Mac & Cheese mostly dropped out of my life again as I became more nutrition conscious and began cooking "real" meals. The Moosewood cookbook offered a less-caloric, zingier recipe that became my standard. Only occasionally would Tom and I indulge in "the box," adding Heinz ketchup or salsa for a guilty meal.
And now there is North Caicos. Convenience foods aren't common here; this is still a from-scratch culture, and the way the locals make mac & cheese is exceptional. But Kraft is on the shelves even in our tiny stores, so I'm sure the guilty pleasure has crossed cultures.
The box costs much more here than it does in the U.S., but I pick it up knowing that there will be those bone-tired, gimme-umami days when it's just right. Not all the time - everything in moderation - but just so.
Thanks, Kraft. You earned this unsolicited commercial.