Not that Mom's a gourmet - she's not. But her spaghetti sauce came from cans of pure&eacut;, not from jars (her gravy came from jars, though), the soup she served for dinner or with dinner came from, at most, a tube of Manishewitz mix, and often from fresh ingredients. The soup she served for lunch came from cans, of course. Okay, her pot roast is made with an envelope of onion soup mix. I said she wasn't a gourmet.
One of the things she never served was one of the suggestions for tonight's dinner (btw, brother-in-law canceled, so it's just for us now) - tuna noodle casserole made with cream of mushroom soup. In fact, the only cream of mushroom soup I remember was from experiments *I* (the budding food snob) made in college. I did get quite good at making white sauce, though.
My mom taught me - mostly. Because one of the other things she never served was boxed mac and cheese. I never tasted boxed mac and cheese until I was an adult - in fact, it was about six years ago, when we visited friends for Shavuot. Which means I've never, ever had Kraft Dinner - only a kosher version. I'm sure it was pretty much identical. Mom's mac and cheese? Made from scratch, with cheese melted into a white sauce (made with her preferred thickener, corn starch.) It was *delicious*, as only comfort food made by mom could be.
Over the years, since my marriage, I've attempted both mac and cheese and a cheesy version of tuna casserole. And while Jonathan always seemed to like them, I hated them. I didn't understand why - I could make a white sauce, no problem. One of the dishes I made that Mom never heard of is salmon wiggle - a white sauce with canned salmon and frozen peas, served over noodles. It comes out beautiful - I really think that if I diluted the sauce more, I'd have a salmon bisque. I make mine with flour, and I use a timer to make sure I cook the roux enough, and it always comes out perfect.
But my cheese sauce? Gritty and nasty, and just unpleasant. And today I finally figured out why.
Because I'm a food snob. And so, I used good cheese. Cheddar and swiss and maybe monterey jack, and none of it worked right. Today, when we shopped for dinner, and Jonathan asked which cheese he should get, I didn't say cheddar. I didn't say monterey jack or a mixture of mozzarella and colby or any of that.
I said, and I quote, "Plastic." Processed cheese food. The type that is almost indistinquishable from the individual wrappings. He bought sixteen ounces of white American cheese food.
And right now, in my oven, is a glass casserole dish, layered with whole wheat macaroni and french cut green beans (thawed in the microwave) and a can of white tuna because it was on top of the pile of tuna cans. And over all of that is a velvety, smooth, creamy, *cheesy* sauce that I just want to eat off my fingers (and on top of that, herbed Japanese panko - an experiment.)
I'm still a food snob. I'm still making my soups from scratch and my spaghetti sauce with paste, and I can't see myself making Wacky Mac, or classic tuna noodle casserole, but I will use the *right* cheese for this job.