A Useful Lesson from Junior High

When I was in junior high school, I took this craft-type class. We spent one quarter each in wood shop, metal shop, sewing class, and cooking class. In metal shop we learned about workplace slacking when, on the first day of class, the teacher said, “This quarter you can make a metal box or have a free period; what do you want to do?” We, of course, opted for the free period. The best of the four quarters was the cooking class. My friend Scott Piso and I were the only two guys in the class and it was apparently expected that we’d be dumbasses because cooking was not a male thing. Let’s see, which is more fun, getting sawdust everywhere or eating fresh baked bread? One of the things we learned to make was classic mac and cheese. It was pretty easy, involving a simple rue and just a little patience, and it tasted so much better than Kraft’s krap. I took that recipe home and started making it for myself. As I got older and mac and cheese became a less exciting culinary treat, I stopped making it. It’s probably been 20 years since I busted it out.

Last night I revived my old tradition. Kate and I are on our own this week and, despite her food-loving parents, she’s still a pretty picky eater. The couple of days previous I’d let her fend for herself in the pantry, but I decided I’d make something from scratch for her. Kate loves very little more than mac and cheese. When we go to Stellar Pizza, one of Seattle’s best places for NY-style pie, Kate eschews pizza and gets their mac and cheese (which, she proclaims, is the “best in the world”). Luckily, she was not too curious about what I was doing in the kitchen. I was able to cook the macaroni, make the sauce, layer it into a baking pan, and pop it in the oven without her coming into the kitchen once. Twenty minutes later the timer went off and I called her in. She was delighted and ate a big bowl. Success. I think I should have used a bit less pasta so it would have been a bit creamier but it was pretty good all in all. As a bonus there are enough leftovers that Kate will have something she likes in the fridge for the next several days.

4 thoughts on “A Useful Lesson from Junior High

  1. So, yours is just roux + cheese, add pasta, bake? I was looking for a mac & cheese recipe the other day that just used cheddar, since that was all that I had in the house. Everything I saw added extra stuff I didn’t have (cream cheese, heavy cream, 3 kinds of cheese, etc).

  2. Hey Chris – I feel deprived on the workplace slacking lesson. I went to Junior High with you and went through those same crafts classes, but I must have been on a different rotation. I not only had to make the metal box, I also had to make a metal napkin holder.

    However, I did learn my own life lesson as a result of the sewing portion of those four classes. When it came to the final week of the class, you were supposed to turn in the t-shirt you had sewn throughout the quarter and that represented your entire grade. All I had to offer was a piece of cloth with a tattered mess of stitches and threads and needles strewn wildly about in no particular pattern. Needless to say, I failed, giving sewing the distinction of being the only class at any level of my education that I flat out flunked. In the process, I learned that I had absolutely no future in sewing. Maybe the larger lesson was to try not to waste time in life on endeavors for which you have neither the passion nor the aptitude to succeed. Thankfully, I wasn’t forced to retake the class, and I’ve never sewed anything since.

    – Matt

  3. Our recipe uses a so-called medium white sauce, for which I use butter, skim milk, and flour and a dash of pepper. Then it’s cooked macaroni, sauce, and shredded cheese in layers, bake until heated through. Mmmmm.

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