Macaroni and Cheese is a traditional casserole dish. When it comes from your mother's kitchen it can induce feelings of warmth and happiness. When it comes from a box it can induce feelings of despair and emptiness.
For some, macaroni and cheese is the dish that can warm the very cockles of your cold heart. Removed from the oven by loving hands and placed before your hungry eyes piping and boiling forth untold worlds of flavor. Could you possibly help but reach your greedy hands out and ravenously wolf down the unsuspecting cheesy quarry? You're damn right you could or your momma'd smack that hand so hard you'd wished it been scalded off by the cheese instead.
For the destitute college student, however, macaroni and cheese is what you eat when you spend all of your money on alcohol. Which is often. In this capacity, macaroni and cheese takes the form a box that can be purchased from the store for about 39 cents. They're on the bottom. By the filth on the floor. If you can find a few coins in the couch, you may be able to scrounge up enough for the Kraft Dinner, which contains a larger packet of cheese and is much oranger than the generic kind. There are even fancier, more "organic" boxes with rabbits on them, but don't even think about those unless you've recently discovered an oil well in your bathroom and are having trouble wasting your earnings.
Who do you think you are? Lorenzo de Medici?
In contrast to the homemade variety, these box brands will probably not warm the cockles of your heart. They may, however, excite the cockles of your bowels and infuse your soul with a heaping helping of ennui. At the very least, you will likely notice that boxed macaroni and cheese has a similar taste and texture to a lightly salted glue stick. Thankfully, as you shovel the solidifying mass of sticky macaroni from the pot into your gaping maw, you will have time to reflect on just where you've gone wrong in your life.
First of all, let's get something out of the way: you cannot cook as well as your mother. Don't even think about making macaroni and cheese from anything other than a packet of cheese dust and presupplied noodles. Possible disasters include:
Dog vomit or botched Mac n' Cheese?
Let's play it safe; let's use the prefab stuff.
Things you will need:
Fill pot about half full of water, add a healthy dose of salt and place on stove. Leave kitchen. After twenty minutes return to kitchen and wonder why the water is still not boiling.
Realize that you never turned the burner on.
Turn burner on. Wait until water boils. Do not watch pot.
Pour macaroni into boiling water.
Remember to take the packet of cheese out of the box before you pour the macaroni into the pot. Failure to do so will result in a ruined packet of cheese dust, macaroni that tastes vaguely like paper and an even sadder you.
Remove pot after about ten minutes or after pasta is "desired texture" (when you get sick of waiting for it).
Drain water out of pot while struggling to hold the macaroni in with the lid, because you have no idea where you put your strainer.
Add milk, butter and packet of "cheese" to macaroni. Stir until you can fool yourself into thinking that there are no errant granules of "cheese" left unabsorbed.
Consume while watching a rerun of Family Guy.
Think about what you have done.
Wonder how much money you could get at the blood bank.
Because boxed macaroni and cheese starts at a base level of bland, it can really only go up in quality of flavor from there. This means that your standard issue mac n' cheese is like a blank canvas, and you have an entire palette of flavor in your fridge. All those leftover condiments that you have nothing to put on? Toss it in the pot! All those spices that you purchased at the grocery store thinking you'd use someday? Throw it in! All that detritus of canned goods that you have no idea what to do with? Why the hell not?!
Think of the macaroni and cheese as a garbage disposal for all the foodstuffs in your dwelling that are still edible. Actually, think of your mouth as the garbage disposal, and the macaroni and cheese as the water that pushes the garbage down the drain... of your mouth.
Here's a few things that you may want to use to spice up your mac n' cheese:
Hot dogs are great at adding both texture and protein to your dinner. They also take you back to a time as a child when both hot dogs and boxed macaroni and cheese were the best things ever. Of course, if you're willing to eat macaroni and cheese, you've probably already exhausted your hot dogs.
Tuna, on the other hand, is probably readily available and delicious. Seriously, why did you buy that can of tuna anyway? What were you going to do with it, make a tuna casserole? Haven't we already talked about you and baking?
Ketchup/Catsup (Either one is fine)
You wouldn't think so, but ketchup works wonderfully. It gives just the right amount of tang to your dish. By the way, ketchup's condiment cousin, mustard, does not work well. Trust me.
In contrast to ketchup's tang, this will add some zing. It will also give you some texture depending on the style of salsa. Additionally, depending on the spiciness of the salsa and your gastrointestinal constitution, it may also give you some farts.
Oh, what? You think that's gross? Screw you, it's awesome.
(Mixing all of these together may not be recommended.)
Can't figure out the complexities of boxed macaroni and cheese? Lucky for you someone's lowered the bar!
IncrEdibles: Macaroni and Cheese in Chili Sauce with Beef
Seriously. Did I say something about glue sticks earlier?
Mac and Cheese Wedges
Everything's better when it's fried! And, by the way Wings on Wheels of Northern Kentucky you're not fooling anybody with that piece of lettuce.
Fin de Siècle French Bohemianism
Just as much ennui, but slightly less nutrition.