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Being a cheesy side dish isn’t easy

POSTED: January 1, 2009 5:00 a.m.

I don't understand the whole fascination with macaroni and cheese.

I like it and I'll eat it, but there is a whole generation of kids who are practically addicted to the stuff.

Two of our daughters, Ashton and Beth, love it. I know this from the tell-tale macaroni and cheese boxes in the trash can. If Ashton asks me to pick her up some lunch, it almost always includes this mixture of pasta and cheese.

My niece, Gracie, eats it at just about every meal.

I see references to it as a comfort food. Chocolate cake is a comfort food. Fried chicken is comfort food. Macaroni and cheese is not.

Another question remaining to be answered is whether or not macaroni and cheese is a Thanksgiving food.

The Thanksgiving food group, on which I consider myself to be an authority, includes turkey, cornbread dressing, sweet potato casserole, green beans (either alone or in a casserole), mashed potatoes and rolls.

I used to be an editor in a newspaper features department and still get mail from people trying to peddle recipes. Somebody sent me a recipe the other day for something called Goat Cheese Torta. The same mailout had a recipe for something called Cranberry Salsa.

If your family's Thanksgiving tradition includes any kind of torta, that's your business and I hope you enjoy it. Aside from a few unwashed relatives, no goat has ever been served at our table.

Cranberries are another story. We always placed cranberry sauce, the kind out of the can, on the same little crystal dish. I don't think anybody had any but Mama. I don't like the way it looks and will pass on the cranberry sauce.

Some of you from north of the Mason-Dixon Line enjoy stuffing. I'm glad you do.

Among the top turkey-producing states are North Carolina, Arkansas, Virginia and South Carolina. These are places where cornbread dressing is the only acceptable complement.

Check the label - if you're eating a Minnesota or California turkey, then have some stuffing if you feel like it.

As for the afterglow, it is pumpkin, sweet potato or pecan pie.

By the way it is puh-can, not pee-can. In the days prior to indoor toilets, the latter pronunciation was what was kept under the bed for overnight emergencies.

But back to this whole macaroni and cheese business. There is nothing wrong with having macaroni and cheese at your table if everybody enjoys it. If you are making it because your grandchild won't eat anything else, that's awful.

If you are heating up some chicken nuggets for the grandchild, with all due respect to my dear friend and reigning poultry czar Abit Massey, that's really awful.

If you're fixing macaroni and cheese because you burned the tofu turkey, then we'll all understand. We'll laugh, but we'll understand.

You don't have to be much of a cook to make decent macaroni and cheese. It's not like the other Thanksgiving stuff, such as green beans, which have to be cooked until they're soft and tender in just the right bath of water and fatback.

I'm not sure who declared macaroni and cheese to be a Thanksgiving entree. I assume it is the same guy who once declared ketchup to be a vegetable.

Harris Blackwood is community editor of The Times. His columns appear Wednesdays and Sundays.



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