I am a Briton who just tried American Kraft mac and cheese for the first time.
Americans seem to love these things and feel so much nostalgia for them, so I was curious what the taste was.
I was shocked by the neon-orange color and thought it was OK.
As a Brit, there are some things in American culture that confuse me. One of them is the cult status of Kraft-packaged macaroni and cheese.
This phenomenon of practical food seems to be an almost universal American childhood experience, transcending class boundaries and evoking a wave of nostalgia across the country when it is mentioned online.
As far as I know, we don’t really have an equivalent to that in the UK, either in terms of products or the emotional response it brings. So, obviously, I had to try it out to see what all the fuss was about.
Editor’s note: Kraft sells several variations of macaroons and cheese around the world – and you can buy his Cheesey pasta in some parts of the UK. It obviously doesn’t taste similar to the American version.
I ordered mac and cheese online and was surprised at how big the box was
I’m sure there are supermarkets in the UK that offer American mac and cheese in boxes. Unfortunately, I don’t live near any of them so I ordered it on Amazon.
He arrived the next day and I was surprised at how big the box was – it said it fed two to three people. I expected it to be just one serving, which is the case with a lot of pre-packaged ready meals.
Preparing this was easier than making poppy seeds and cheese from scratch, but it took more effort than I expected
With our rough British equivalent of noodles or bags of pasta, simply pour boiling water over everything and let stand for five minutes.
This mac and cheese requires two additional ingredients, milk and butter, plus the pan in which you first had to cook the pasta.
I cooked the pasta according to the instructions, but first I salted the water out of habit, although the instructions did not state that it was done. Looking back, this was a small mistake because I also used salted butter when making the sauce, so it threw everything a little out of balance.
Butter was weighed in spoons, which was fine. But finding 1/4 cup of milk was harder because I am a stubborn European. I had to google what the metric equivalent is.
I even mumbled a little, weighed the butter into the ramekin and previously put the right amount of milk in the glass. This is wonderfully ironic because when I make mac and cheese from scratch, I never measure anything properly.
The color of the cheese sauce really thrilled me
So far, the process has been fairly routine. But when I opened the bag of the cheese and sauce mixture, I actually screamed out loud.
The sauce powder was fierce orange. In fact, more orange than kumquat in the solarium. It also smelled exactly like the brand of cheese we have here called Wotsits, and I still can’t decide if it’s a good thing or not.
The sauce seemed a little liquid to me when I mixed the powder into the pasta, but on the box was a picture of a drop of cartoon sauce flowing from a spoon, so I calmed down.
I didn’t have high expectations, and the pasta I thought was OK
You see, I know this is an instant mac and cheese so I didn’t go with high expectations.
I thought it was very OK – nothing more, nothing less. Surprisingly, there was creepy sweetness in the whole thing, even though sugar wasn’t on the ingredient list.
And of course, it was cute, but not in the way the socks blew.
He could have used a little black pepper or a teaspoon of mustard to cut through the one-dimensional creaminess, but I wanted to have an authentic experience so this time I refrained from putting my own circle on things.
And although I’m lucky enough to have a complete set of good teeth, I didn’t have to use them because the dish was very soft and spoonful.
Sure, it’s perfectly acceptable as food – we still ate a lot – but the word that comes to mind after eating a bowl is “loose”.
If I had a nostalgia for food, I would certainly appreciate it more
I absolutely understand why kids would go wild because of this, especially picky people who aren’t that good with stronger flavors or textures. It’s also a very light dinner – and you can make it more of a meal if you add a few toppings (capers, black pepper, ham, vegetables, etc.).
Maybe I completely missed the point of eating this as an adult. You may not be destined to worry about what it really tastes like or turn up your nose because it’s not perfectly balanced as a dish. Maybe the whole purpose of eating is to go back to 8 years old.
Framing in this way and now knowing what it tastes like has given me a better understanding of the cultural phenomenon of poppy seeds and cheese in a box.
It’s just a shame I’ll never be able to experience the nostalgia that comes with that.
Read the original Insider article