If you read my post last week, you know I was a little distressed over the recent shootings in my country. Blogging was intended to bring me a comfort in troubled times. In hindsight, maybe I was overthinking the situation. Maybe all I needed was comfort food. Enter Chick-fil-A. The popular fast-food chicken restaurant may never be forgiven for removing their awesome coleslaw from the “Sides” menu a few years back, but just this week they brought a new guest to the party. Hello, macaroni and cheese.
Amanda Norris is Chick-fil-A’s executive director of menu and packaging. She’s now my new best friend. A chicken sandwich and waffle fries, with a second side of mac & cheese? Heaven in a to-go bag, my friends. As Amanda puts it, “Mac & cheese is the quintessential comfort food… the perfect pairing… but it’s also great on its own as a snack”. In other words, I’ve just been given permission to drive-thru Chick-fil-A and order only mac & cheese. I’m a kid again!
Chick-fil-A’s mac & cheese is made with a special blend of cheddar, Parmesan, and Romano, and baked fresh every day. Uh, push the pause button here. Three cheeses sounds a little fancy for the mac & cheese I had in mind. If the restaurant really wanted to arrow the bullseye, they should’ve done a deal with Kraft Foods and offered the mac & cheese. You know the one – the proud little blue-and-gold box of the “cheesiest”, with the pile of pasta curls and pouch of powdered who-knows-what? There’s simply no equal.
Kraft introduced its “Macaroni & Cheese Dinner” in 1937 with the slogan, “Make a meal for four in nine minutes”. Back then – the Depression years – you could buy two boxes of Kraft for a single food-rationing stamp (Make a meal for eight…!) Fast-forward to the 1980’s, when my wife and I were managing our shoestring food budget. At least we knew we could buy Kraft mac & cheese. Three boxes for a dollar!
Three-cheese blend aside, I agree with Chick-fil-A. Mac & cheese is the quintessential comfort food. Comfort food is defined as “… providing a nostalgic or sentimental value to someone”, and “…tends to be high in calories, high in carbs, and easy to prepare”. Well hey, you might as well just say, “Kraft Macaroni & Cheese Dinner”! Sure, you could turn to other comfort foods on Wikipedia’s short-list, like chicken soup, chocolate-chip cookies or grilled cheese (Tater Tots and sugary breakfast cereals didn’t make the list – for shame!), but take my money – and give me comfort – Kraft mac & cheese earns the top spot. Just ask any Canadian; it’s the most-purchased grocery item in the country.
Recently, mac & cheese sits side-by-side with Brussels sprouts as a trendy restaurant offering, even in the fancy places. The problem is in the spin – all those added ingredients for a supposedly better taste. Lobster mac & cheese. Mac & cheese pizza (topped with shredded Colby-Jack). Mac & cheese pie (with a bready crust). Even Kraft messed with the Original (“Star Wars-shaped” pasta? Come on!). Admittedly, their “Shells & Cheese Dinner” with the Velveeta cheese sauce is a pretty good option. But it’s not the Original.
Comfort foods are further defined as “… food associated with the security of childhood. They are believed to be a great coping mechanism for rapidly soothing negative feelings.” There it is, and that’s what I need right now. The couple of Kraft boxes in my pantry are calling me home.