I never could keep my mouth shut. Braggadocio? Bravado? Vodka? Whatever it was that prompted me to announce to a roomful of excellent cooks that I made the best macaroni and cheese ever, also prompted me to challenge them to a cook off.
I printed off my invitations, thinking that, at the most, maybe Michele, Liza and Marco would take me up on the actual cooking of Mac n’ Cheese. And you know with parties, you have to invite 30 if you want 20 to come?
By the next day I’d gotten 5 responses to participate. By day two, there were 8, then 15 and they kept coming…bored anyone? I guess I’d forgotten how slow things were after Christmas. People were just champing at the bit to get out of their houses and into someone else’s, preferably with lots of Mac n’ Cheese. And beer. You never, ever went to someone’s house without beer. (Or something like it-remind me to tell you about the Yukaflux party)
By the day of the party I had 10 macaroni’s coming and about 20 tasters. I thought. Then friends told friends and they told some people and I had a paaarty going on. It was an accident, I swear. That’s what I told the people who called and wanted to know why they weren’t invited.
The morning of the party I went over to visit Jesse, who is a young guy with a big masonry business. He wasn’t a cook. But he was cooking. And so was Isaac, his buddy. And Tanner was bringing a macaroni and cheese. So was Liza. And Shawn had a recipe. It was called Fridge Door Macaroni and Cheese. And Claudia, my next door neighbor. And Michele, from up the Valley. And Marco and the list went on. I was getting nervous. Just how many macaroni and cheeses were coming?
It turns out A LOT were coming. In fact, out of everybody who responded, and most of the people who didn’t respond but showed up anyway, all but three were bringing a dish.
I’m great under pressure. I invited the teenagers. I started calling all of Madeleine’s friends and asking them if they wanted to eat macaroni and cheese. As much as they wanted. It was a stroke of genius. They got to go to a ‘grown up’ party and I got rid of 50 lbs of mac and cheese leftovers.
By the time the party started I had my house crammed with people. Everyone had already done the cooking so I was in charge of heating and serving. Talk about hard work. I’d heat up 3 or 4, hand them to the judges. Teenagers really DO have a fabulous palate for macaroni and cheese. They took their duties very seriously. After the judges got their samples, I’d hand out plates of whatever was left to who ever was standing nearby. Then start the next round.
By 10pm it was done. It was up to the judges. I’d had them write down the points based on pasta, cheese flavour, appearance and originality. Mine was a plain, cheddar cheese pasta with crumbs baked on top. How could I compete?
There were macaroni and cheeses with buffalo chicken wings, hamburger, elk, moose, peppers and veggies, 5 cheeses, a dark beer cheese sauce, eggs, Shawn made his Fridge Door mac n’ cheese, which consisted of him standing at the fridge door and adding a dash of this and a pinch of that and a shake of this, all from his impressive collection of condiments from his fridge door. And lots of hamburger and cheese. That was the winner. Second place went to the chicken wing/hot sauce mac ‘n cheese. Third place went to Michele who is the uncontested best cook in the valley and, given that it was teens judging and her’s, like mine, was plain cheese, it was an honor.
Fun? Hell yes. The kitchen looked like a bomb went off in it.
but that’s the beauty of small towns. By the time we were planning on moving the party over to the Columbia Inn, my girlfriends had cleaned up the kitchen, the teens were safely at home (presumably) and I was a hero, having started a new wave of parties. The competition parties. There was a Hot Wing Party, a Meatball Party, a Cake Party…for all I know they may still be doing it.
And I’ve perfected my Mac and Cheese now. So bring it on!