Of Love and Macaroni
Everyone has his or her own idea of what constitutes a romantic gift. Shakespeare thought that the personalized sonnet was the way to a woman’s heart. My sister the florist fervently hopes that large bouquets will long remain an appropriate expression of affection. Enormous boxes of chocolate and sparkling jewelry are also traditional gifts of love-as are a quiet dinner for two or a weekend getaway.
Everyday things can be romantic as well. A cup of tea delivered to the desk of the madly typing writer, an offer to take the boisterous children out of the house for the afternoon so that said writer can create in peace, an emptied dishwasher
And how about macaroni and cheese?
My grandfather William Stanley Thomas-a World War II sailor who carried bits of shrapnel in his body as souvenirs of the destruction of a ship he’d manned-never became famous for sonnets and could rarely afford pricey presents for my grandmother. Instead, he gave her those everyday Valentines that told her of his love.
Brought up in the home of a great Pennsylvania Dutch cook, Pop Pop Bill’s bride Shirley had little inclination to learn to cook. She learned only the basics, and never came to love kitchen work. It was Pop Pop who conjured up big pans of savory baked beans, pans of scrumptious fudge, delicious cakes, and the best macaroni and cheese ever. Part of his marriage vow “to love and to cherish” was expressed in the kitchen. And yes, he also washed the dishes.
Even after their five children were grown, Pop Pop continued to show his love through acts of domestic service. At a time when he and my grandmother were both in ill health, he would banish her from the sink and plunge his own hands into the sudsy dishwater. His own pain was no small thing at the time, but this was how he loved her.
Pop Pop passed away several years ago. He is remembered for his work ethic, a generous spirit, and his mischievous sense of humor. He also left behind a great macaroni and cheese recipe. The list of ingredients does not include “love,” but I know it was part of the dish.
After all, what could be more romantic than “little things done with great love?”
Pop Pop’s Macaroni and Cheese
1/2 lb. macaroni
2 cups milk
3 Tbsp. flour
1 tsp. yellow mustard
1/8 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. salt
3 Tbsp. butter
1/2 lb. shredded sharp cheddar
Prepare macaroni according to box, drain, and set aside. Combine milk, flour, yellow mustard, pepper and salt in 2 qt. baking dish. Whisk together, then add butter. Microwave on high for 2 minutes, whisk. Repeat until mixture just begins to thicken. Stir in cheese. Add macaroni to the dish of sauce and stir. Sprinkle the top with additional shredded cheese if desired. Bake for 30 minutes, until bubbly. Serve with love.