No, it didn’t just come from a box…
by Alexander Quebec
If you’re a kid of the 80’s and 90’s, you probably grew up on the classic boxed Kraft Mac and Cheese. My mom was the cool mom and got us the fun shapes in cartoon characters (Ninja Turtles anyone?) and even threw in some ground beef or turkey for a legit dinner. But where did this classic comfort dish come from? It has a much longer history than one would think, going all the way back to Medieval Europe. Check out an abbreviated history of the cheesy goodness that is Macaroni and Cheese.
14th Century – First mention of a dish we would consider mac and cheese in the Liber De Conquina, a set of two medieval cookbooks. It was an Italian dish made up of pasta and parmesean. It was known in 14th century England as makerouns
- Makerouns. Take and make a thynne foyle of dowh, and kerue it on pieces, and cast hym on boiling water & seeþ it wele. Take chese and grate it, and butter imelte, cast bynethen and abouven as losyns; and serue forth.
Translation: Macaroni. Take a piece of thin pastry dough and cut it in pieces, place in boiling water and cook. Take grated cheese, melted butter, and arrange in layers like lasagna; serve.
19th century – In 1769, a modern version of the recipe came from a book called The Experienced English Housekeeper by Elizabeth Raffald. Later, in 1802, Thomas Jefferson serves macaroni pie at a party in his home, a dish that would later be known as Macaroni and Cheese. in 1824 the first recipe for Macaroni and Cheese is published in America, the Industrial Revolution and Mass production have since made a dish that was once enjoyed by the aristocracy accessible to the masses.
1937 – Kraft introduces the first boxed Mac and Cheese in both the US and Canada, immediately, it becomes a success due to Depression era economics and later, to wartime rationing; It later became one of the most popular supermarket items of all time. The idea was inspired by a salesman in St. Louis, MS. who was selling packages of macaroni attached to bags of grated cheese with rubber bands. The invention of processed cheese with longer shelf life also encouraged it’s creation.
And there you have it folks. Mac and cheese has come a long way, from being a dish for the wealthy to something everyone can enjoy. Where’s your favorite place to get mac and cheese? Let us know in the comments below.
* Hieatt, Constance B. and Sharon Butler. Curye on Inglish: English Culinary Manuscripts of the Fourteenth-Century (Including the Forme of Cury). New York: for The Early English Text Society by the Oxford University Press, 1985.
Cover Photo from sheknows.com