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Mac and Cheese: A Thanksgiving Day Must and Top Ten Comfort Food

Mac and cheese, recipes below (image from http://allyskitchen.blogspot.com)
How did mac and cheese become a Thanksgiving Day must and top ten comfort food? In research for my book Hog and Hominy http://cup.columbia.edu/book/978-0-231-14638-8/hog-and-hominy/excerpt, I found the earliest reference to macaroni and cheese in a 1928 Dorothy Dickins authored federal government report about farm families in the Mississippi Delta. Dickins found that most African-American women had never tasted macaroni and cheese and only a few cooked it for their families because they complained that it was too “starchy and gummy.” Dickins goes on to say, “The majority feels that they have too little cash to spend on something which they perhaps cannot properly prepare or which, if they can, the family probably will not like.” What is interesting about this quote is that today it's one of the most popular comfort foods among most North Americans.  Macaroni and cheese had become quite popular in nineteenth century Europe where it  appeared on menus as Macaroni with cheese, Macaroni au Parmesan, Macaroni a la creme, Macaroni a la Napolitaine, Macaronia l’Italienne, and Baked macaroni. I maintain that this comfort food evolved in the United States in a series of steps: At the turn of the century, Italian immigrants who migrated to the Mississippi Delta as agricultural workers introduced pasta to their African American neighbors and co-workers. Then Italian entrepreneurs who saved up enough money to do so started grocery stores in the Delta that sold pasta. These entrepreneurs later converted some of these groceries into part store and part eateries that served inexpensive Italian pasta dishes. The final step occurred during the Great Depression when FDR’s National Release Agency distributed free cheese as part of its food relief programs. Finally the dish made it on the menus of boarding houses, trains with dining cars, and other popular eating spaces.  Below are some mac and cheese recipes. Try using gold fish crackers instead of bread crumbs which children who are picky eaters will love.

Southern Mac and Cheese recipe:

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