In Defense of Boxed Macaroni & Cheese

If I had a million dollars We wouldnt have to eat Kraft dinner But we would eat Kraft dinner

Of course we would, we’d just eat more – Barenaked Ladies, “If I Had a Million Dollars”


You can love sophisticated, gourmet cuisine and also have a soft spot for the artificial orange powder.  I do.

As a food writer, I’m constantly being treated to meals at some of the best restaurants and by the best chefs, a huge benefit of the job.  I regularly eat things like ponzo yogurt foam, freeze-dried Sriracha balls, imported tuna belly, and homemade fermented noodles.  My stomach is beyond spoiled.

But those few meals when I’m not sent out on assignment, when I don’t have to pay attention to the textures and flavors and the presentation of my plate, there’s nothing like curling up in bed with a warm, freshly prepared box of Kraft or Annie’s macaroni and cheese.

Kraft Macaroni and cheese was the first dish my dad learned how to make, way back in the 60s, and when I was growing up in the 90s, he wanted to make sure it was the first meal I learned how to prepare as well.  So yes, before I learned what foie gras was or how to confit a tomato, I was draining noodles (not rinsing) and mixing milk, butter, and powdered cheese to coat them.

I still love making the small pasta and preparing the cheese sauce, mixing them both together for a savory creation so reminiscent of growing up, I feel like a get a small piece of my childhood back in every bite.

The flavors are incredibly basic: simple carbs, pasta, and a salty, kind of artificial, cheese. There’s nothing to process or think about.  There’s no mystery ingredient a chef used that I’m trying to decode with each bite.  The familiar flavors are beyond comforting, and there are nights I’d rather open a box of extra-cheesy shells than be served plate after plate of creamed vegetable liver something at a Michelin starred restaurant.

Boxed food gets a lot of hate. There’s a lot of sodium, artificial flavor and color, and a lack of vitamins and nutrients that are amply available with fresh ingredients.  In fact,Kraft has decided to remove yellow dye from its ingredients list, to cut down on chemicals.

Boxed mac and cheese isn’t healthy. But neither is a seven-course meal prepared with heavy cream and butter.  An indulgence every so often isn’t so terrible.

So if you ever catch me on a night off, I’ll be splurging on a 99-cent box of artificially-flavored noodles, ready to have my favorite feast of the week.


*this post was also featured on Food Riot

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