Sunday, April 26, 2015

R.I.P. Kraft Macaroni and Cheese: At Least One Person Will Miss You!

People are willing to go to extremes for the cheesy taste of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese--you know you love it!   
--from a 2014 television commercial

This is how I best enjoy my day-glow orange Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. Hot off the stove and then spooned into a waiting bowl, wafts of pungent cheesy steam still rising off a pile of pasta, cooked al dente.  That’s right. My name’s John. I’m 54 years old and still, occasionally, four or five times a year, I eat Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. Have enjoyed this delicacy of hunter camouflage orange noodles since my childhood.  Practically lived off the stuff during college when three boxes could be had for under a dollar.  Have seen it ladled into hundreds of bowls for finicky toddlers, Mac and Cheese the only thing they’d eat in their oh so picky pre-K years. 

But now for some bad news….

After a vigorous two year campaign to force Kraft Foods to remove artificial preservatives and synthetic colors from their Mac and Cheese, the company has relented. Very soon I, and maybe you too, and millions of others who consume this comfort food in secret (admit it), whose color was once named “as unnaturally orange as a nuclear dawn”: we’ll bid adieu to this food.  No longer shaded in a color unheard of in nature, I suppose the “new and improved” Mac and Cheese will be some tepid yellow color, maybe beige or off white, healthier for sure, but it just won’t be the same.

A food blogger, a “foodie” extraordinaire, Vani Harri, who also goes by the moniker “Food Babe”, led the charge to slay the mighty dragon which is Kraft.  For the past two years Harri captained an online anti Mac and Cheese battle, collecting 350,000 signatures in a petition. Last week she declared victory in a breathless tone usually reserved for the end of a war. A real war.  “The thousands of letters I have received from parents whose children have benefited from the removal of artificial food dyes are ringing in my ear this morning,” she wrote.  “We finally did it.”

Me? I’m going to miss my old Mac and Cheese. My head knows that processed foods, though convenient and cheap, are not so good for me: for my weight or cholesterol or vitamin intake. I know I should be snacking on rice cakes rather than Cheddar Cheese Combos, drinking Vitamin Water and not Fresca diet soda, but I’m just not strong enough I suppose.  Not foodie enough.  So my nostalgic food heart, my comfort food heart: it’s kind of broken today.

Yes, I risk sounding as stale as months old Wonder Bread in expressing mystification at the foodies, who so dominate the world of eating today.  Who eat uber “healthy” treats like kale chips and unpasteurized milk.  Who have the commitment and talent to make fresh meals from scratch while I scramble to grab something to eat, sometimes from a can, after a long day (and often night) at work.  I flip straight through the Food Channel when TV surfing, skip the Iron Chef, and prefer a roadside diner to a downtown bistro any day.

In fact I grew up eating what today would be no doubt labeled as “unhealthy”, maybe even dangerous.  Kool Aid on hot summer days.  Captain Crunch cereal floating in a bowl of whole milk. Velveeta Cheese melted over toast.  Fish sticks, which probably didn’t really have much fish in them.  Canned Heinz Beans and bright red Oscar Mayer dogs and B&M brown bread in a can (that’s right, a can) as a special treat.

It may not be kosher or cool or current or have any cachet to admit that I still sometimes have a hankering for all that “bad” food.  But I can’t help it.  Sorry Food Babe.       

So when you see me in the supermarket aisle in the next few months, don’t be alarmed if my arms are stacked high with soon to be discontinued boxes of old fashioned Kraft Mac and Cheese. The good news is that with all those pseudo ingredients, it’ll store in my pantry for many years to come. 

And yes: you’re welcome to come over for dinner too.

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