Say (Mac &) Cheese!
I didn’t always like mac & cheese. In fact, I pretty much loathed it. But cheese itself? I couldn’t get enough.
Admittedly, my affection didn’t begin with real cheese. Instead, my very first food memory is of a grilled cheese sandwich made with American cheese slices, Wonder bread and real butter (at least there was that).
My mother dutifully cut the sandwich into toddler-sized triangles, and my tiny hands excitedly applied a death grip on the gooey delight.
Fast-forward a couple of decades, and my cheese love transferred to the real stuff. College parties included wheels of brie and real cheddar, which inevitably paved the way to the cheeses I love and celebrate now.
A career in television news served as the unlikely beginning of my role as a cheese author and educator. But all along, I had an insatiable appetite for food of all kinds, which was the precursor to writing about it. But cheese, American-made, caught my attention, and there was no turning back. A visit to the farmers’ market was an excuse to make a beeline for the tables of the California cheesemakers we now know and love. Cindy Callahan from Bellwether Farms and Sue Conley and Peggy Smith from Cowgirl Creamery led the pack, cutting and serving samples of their nascent cheeses and telling their story to anyone who asked. I was one of those questioners—their stories endlessly fascinating to me, their hero status confirmed in my mind and heart.
This was in the late ’90s. Now, 13 years and six cheese focused books later, the American cheese naysayers I encountered early on have become true believers. For me, my passion for all things cheese is greater than ever before. That includes comfort food made with it. Not surprisingly, this was the impetus for my newest book, Mac & Cheese, Please! Sure, I’d written two books about grilled cheese, which pretty much underscores my claim as a comfort food lover, but mac & cheese was particularly fun—and delicious—to tackle.
And so it is that I looked once again to American cheeses, especially those made close to home, to create some of the recipes. My recipe here for Sonoma Mac & Cheese is one of those. Its obvious inspiration lies in the verdant hills north of the Golden Gate and the animals and creameries in their midst. The result is a dish that brings together all the comforts of home in one cheesy bite.