And Suddenly, There Were Options

By FoodNerd May 27, 2009

[Editor's Note: FoodNerd usually runs on Tuesdays. Here it is Wednesday. What has happened to us? We will be back on schedule shortly.]


Annie’s Brand Macaroni and Cheese is magic in a box. 

On those days when the potential joy and escape of cooking has left and obligation has filled its place, turn to the box.  It’s what you need.

Look carefully through your pantry and your fridge.  Reconsider the cans of beans or tomatoes that you keep passing over. See the salvageable parts of the sautéed veggies that have sat longer than you intended.  Follow the directions on the box, and within ten minutes, you have a meal that rivals the ones other people have spent three times as long on.

I used to be a purist about boxed macaroni and cheese.  It was a binge food and was, thus, treated as such—cooked and consumed quickly. No thought, no intention. Just a pot and a spoon.

 Gradually, I began to look for ways to extend the comfort.  Canned tuna and frozen peas became favorite add-ons—together and separately.  

But this past week, I moved one step closer to the pinnacle of cooking prowess. Somewhat unintentionally.  I was desperate.  Juggling multiple deadlines, there was barely time to eat.  I had enough wherewithal to resist the pull of Thai take-out and the ever-growing buffet line of food carts down the street.  But I had little else. Or so I thought.

Then I began digging around. 

The box of mac and cheese was an obvious choice.  But it didn’t feel substantial—or really, healthy. So I went back for more—taking on both the pantry and the fridge, and suddenly, there were options.  Cannellini beans.  Pesto.  Roasted asparagus. Spinach on the verge of wilting. The last pulls of a roasted chicken. A final sprinkling of parm-reggiano in a plastic container. Mixed together, I had a meal that challenged the usual assumptions associated with “easy” and “instant.”  

In fact, as time continued to be my enemy, I happily resorted to mixing and matching the resurrected ingredients and made different meals throughout the week. All with Annie's White Cheddar Mac and Cheese as my base. One night, just the pesto and chicken; another, the spinach, asparagus, and beans; a final night, only the pesto.  All without going to the store. 

More Macguyver than James Beard perhaps. But magic nonetheless. And of course, good eating. How often we take for granted the possibilities that surround us, preferring instead to acquire more—only to realize later that we already had all that we needed.
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