Sunday, Lauren (8) came down with strep throat. For the first 36 hours, she consumed only sporadic tablespoons of jello. Yesterday, she tentatively began eating again. This noon, she requested macaroni and cheese. Relief dropped my shoulders back below my ears. Her health is returning. Eager to please, I went for the Kraft Macaroni and Cheese box, – a staple in the cupboard.

“Oh no, Mom. Please not Kraft,” she said in a plaintiff voice. “Won’t you make it like you did before? -Homemade macaroni and cheese?!”

I looked at her blankly. I had no clue how I had made “homemade” macaroni and cheese before. I said I didn’t remember how to make it.

“But Mom, that was the best macaroni and cheese EVER! You know how! – You do!” She insisted.

I admit a vague remembrance of tossing odd amounts of cheese into…was it butter and milk? Did I use olive oil? Did I do it in a double boiler? I was at a loss. Typical, that night I must have been just tossing and stirring food into pots while my mind tended to household mail, kid homework, ‘ow-ies’, sibling squabbles, and all the rest that goes into a normal, healthy life. And that night I made “the best macaroni and cheese ever? Hmh, I paused. It’s not that I’m a great cook, mind you. It’s just that that night I must have gotten lucky, and they ate what I made.

“Please Mom, won’t you make it?” she repeated her plea. What could I say to those fever-glazed eyes? My daughter had just returned from a mother’s-imagined death’s door. Somehow I had to whip up a cheese sauce. So what did I do?..I punted.

I remembered seeing a macaroni and cheese recipe in The Cancer Survival Cookbook, in the section “Easy Lunches”. (Seemed appropriate at the moment.) The recipe is slightly more elaborate than a Kraft mock-up. It is actually a casserole in which the macaroni and cheese get baked with seasonings beneath a bread crumb/parsley/cheese topping.  So I made it. And I’m posting the recipe on the side page Comfort Foods – Wisconsin Style.

I mostly followed the ingredients list. I had already dumped pasta in water, so I wasn’t sure the pasta proportion was exactly 10 ounces like the recipe called for. And I didn’t use elbow macaroni, – but both my substitutes (from previously opened boxes) were rippled or twisted. I didn’t have shredded American cheese, – I used shredded Mozzarella. But Weihofen and Marino, the cookbook’s authors, say to try the recipe with cheddar and Swiss, so I guess they’re flexible about cheese too.

The upshot? – We both liked the baked macaroni and cheese…

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