Boxed Mac and Cheese

We were a Kraft household growing up, certainly eating our fair share of blue box mac and cheese. The steps to make it are quite simple: cook the pasta and drain out the water, put the pasta back in the pan, then stir in milk, butter, and the cheese packet. I must have done this hundreds of times throughout my childhood, never once questioning these instructions. Why would I? Of course Kraft of all companies knows how to make a pot of mac & cheese! I mean, they even tweeted out the instructions, lest you throw away the box and find yourself stranded:

It wasn’t until a few years into my marriage that I realized that I had been making mac and cheese wrong my entire life. Surely there are different ways to make mac and cheese, but is it really fair to say that the Kraft way is wrong? Yes. Yes, it is. What I saw my wife do was nothing less than life-altering. Okay, well at least I still think about it every time I make mac and cheese, some 10 years later.

You don’t mix the sauce ingredients into the pasta-filled pan like a monster! That is the way to clumpy, grainy, cheese-powder disaster. Instead, leave the pasta in the strainer and make the sauce in the empty pan first! Only once it is nice and smooth do you add the pasta back in so that you get a nice even coating. (In essence, you’re making a roux. Or at least you would be if the cheese packet has flour in it. I’m not sure if it does.)

It turns out that this is what Annie’s has instructed on their boxed mac and cheese all along:

Annie's way in 8 minutes: cook and drain pasta; combine milk, cheese, and cheese packet in saucepan; add cooked pasta to saucepan and stir

On the evening that I achieved macaroni enlightenment, I was hesitant to research whether it was my own mother or Kraft that had led me astray as a child. I guess it was a small comfort to discover that it was indeed Kraft, though the betrayal I felt was palpable. Suffice it to say, we’re an Annie’s household now.

That said, I can’t fully explain what’s going on in this picture. I’m willing to accept that this was staged just for the picture, and that someone did not, in fact, have a serious lapse in macaroni-and-cheese judgement.