The weird world of macaroni and cheese

By MEAGAN PEOPLES | November 16, 2017

The first page of results that comes up when you type “instant mac and cheese” into google consists almost entirely of recipes. It’s almost as though some people don’t understand the concept of “instant.”

As I move further down in the search results, I’m learning far more interesting things about the cheese product I’m eating for dinner. For example, the powdered cheese in instant mac and cheese contains a chemical called phthalates, which is thought to cause birth defects.

For more reasons than just that, I hope I’m not pregnant.

Though this chemical was removed from children’s toys, it is still allowed in food and beverages. Ain’t that swell?

Honestly, even knowing that, will I stop eating my instant mac and cheese after a long, hard day? Unlikely. Perhaps my laziness will be my undoing one day, but for now it lets me enjoy some phthalates-filled powdered cheese.

How about some less depressing facts, you ask. Well, Kraft sold its first box of mac and cheese in 1937, during the Great Depression. So little did you know that by “living that student life,” you’re actually taking part in the great American tradition of being too poor to afford real food for yourself. The boxes were sold for 19 cents each and could feed four people. Though, if those serving sizes are based on modern standards, then each box probably only fed about one person. At least that’s what I tell myself when I find myself suddenly at the end of the box with no one to blame but myself.

Interestingly, it’s thought that good ol’ Thomas Jefferson, third president of the United States and enemy of the Barbary pirates, is the one who brought mac and cheese to this side of the pond.

The story goes that he brought a pasta machine back from Italy, and his daughter made good use of it by inventing the college student staple (though she used parmesan rather than cheddar). What’s more likely, however, is that Jefferson encountered the dish while abroad and brought the recipe back.

Honestly though, what kind of American tradition would mac and cheese be if it didn’t involve some cultural appropriation.

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