Words from my heart
Written in May 2013 shortly after finishing spring semester classes. I was compelled to write this—just for fun—after taking 20th Century British Literature.
My weekly newspaper reading does not typically include the food section of The Fresno Bee—I’m the non-foodie type. But yesterday morning, the words “perfect mac ‘n cheese” caught my attention in the giant headline located across the gutter from Dear Amy. I try to keep an eye out for unique mac ‘n cheese recipes because my daughter loves to cook, and mac ‘n cheese is one of her favorite dishes. Personally, I don’t think she’s struck mac ‘n cheese gold quite yet, even though google has a gazillion perfect-easy-natural-best-classic recipes that are truffled-puffed-baked-stirred-grilled . . . or whatever.
So what’s the scoop on this recipe? Why did Scott Heimendinger get top billing and a half page feature, big picture included? Science, that’s why. According to the column, James L. Kraft found that adding “sodium phosphate to the cheese as it melted kept it from turning into a clumpy mess.” Thank you Mr. Kraft for this discovery, because seriously, who in the world likes clumpy mac ‘n cheese?
Well, the idea of adding sodium phosphate to cheese is truly interesting, but that’s not the only reason Scott’s article intrigued me. No, it was the recipe name—MODERNIST Mac ‘n Cheese. Normally, I would have just thought, Huh! What a weird name for a recipe, but not anymore. I’m proud to say that I have one semester of 20th Century British Literature under my belt. I’m now an expert on the modernist movement. Wait, sorry. That’s a lie. I actually didn’t pass the class, so I should say that I’m aware of the modernist movement. But hey–the point is that I know a heck of a lot more about the early 1900s than I did four months ago. Those modernists were all about “art for art’s sake.” Ridiculously so. I mean, Vorticism? REALLY?
But back to the mac ‘n cheese. What is modernist mac ‘n cheese? Is it a bowl of elegantly curved elbow macaroni whose only concern is aesthetic beauty? Is it cheesy aromas that seductively waft up one’s nose and then down into the soul causing culinary epiphanies of religious proportion? Or, maybe it’s simply called Modernist mac ‘n cheese because Kraft discovered his magic solution to clumpy cheese in 1912, the same time modernists were spreading their artistic wings like young Stephen Dedalus.
I bet your bottom dollar that Ezra Pound, Virginia Woolf, and the infamous James Joyce gobbled their fair share of mac ‘n cheese while streams upon streams of consciousness flowed into new rhetorical works, which by the way, caused a powerful blow to traditional literary forms, as well as BLASTed bourgeois culture into oblivion. Yep, I’m pretty sure that’s what happened. But don’t quote me.
Anyway, I just had to say something about the oddity of mac ‘n cheese being labeled “modernist.” When my daughter came by the house yesterday afternoon, I gave her the recipe and encouraged her to try this scientific approach to comfort-food cooking. Who knows? She might strike gold this time. And me? Maybe the next class I should take is Gastronomy 101.
Scott Heimendinger article.
Gastronomy: the art or science of good eating.
Modernist: a person who follows or favors modern ways, tendencies, etc.
Modernist Cuisine: Award-winning books published by The Cooking Lab, an interdisciplinary team “dedicated to advancing the state of the culinary arts through the creative application of scientific knowledge and experimental techniques.”
My conclusion on why this recipe is called Modernist Mac ‘n Cheese: It’s a creative and modern recipe scientifically inspired by James L. Kraft’s discovery of sodium phosphate. The result is goooooood eating.