Today I learnt that macaroni cheese, aka macrows, aka maccherone, has been around in England since c.1390. And that I suck at making it. It’s the Friday before Hocktide, Hocktide being Sunday, Monday and Tuesday next week. And on this Friday in Hungerford, Berkshire, it’s traditional to eat macaroni cheese with watercress. I have no idea why, and I’ve found no recipe to support it, it’s just what was done. So I did. Badly.
And it really wasn’t the recipe’s fault, I was very distracted. As well as the macaroni, there were olives and a parallel cheesy bake on the go. And when I say cheese, I obviously mean a weird cashew and nutritional yeast combination which is never unpleasant, unless you tip in a lot of hot smoky paprika. Which I did.
I was using some sort of corn and quinoa hybrid pasta which clumped in the pan then had to be scraped off the bottom. Next the whizzed up ‘cheese’ sauce was thinner than a thin thing, so I improvised by chucking in more cashews, and a heap of cornflour. Better. Then a bit of lemon juice and some mustard to try and mask the paprika. More better.
You know how macaroni cheese is supposed to be unctuous? Oozing and comforting, stodgy yet slippery? Well, out of those five, I managed one: stodgy. In my enthusiasm for the cheesy bake, I short changed my macaroni, then forgot to cover the pan with foil to preserve what little moisture there was, so what came out of the oven was rubbery and mean.
Of course I ate all of it, along with a bunch of watercress. I’m not a fan of hot watercress unless we’re talking soup, so I used it as a springy base, and munched through it like a rabbit. And having done so, I genuinely don’t see the attraction of combining macaroni cheese and watercress. But for one perfect mouthful, I did find a pocket full of thick sauciness, which ultimately made me sad for what might have been.
Traditionally, important local business was transacted at the Macaroni Supper. I, on the other hand, watched an old episode of Grey’s Anatomy where a guy’s hand got stuck in a meat grinder.
Buckton, H. (2012) Yesterday’s Country Customs: A History of Traditional English Folklore, Stroud, The History Press
Cooper, Q. and Sullivan, P. (1994) Maypoles, Martyrs & Mayhem: 366 Days of British Myths, Customs & Eccentricities, London, Bloomsbury Publishing Plc