Mac & Cheese is a Vegetable

Well not technically of course. It isn’t green. And, for the most part, nothing in the recipe is actually

grown but that doesn’t stop it from appearing on the vegetable side of the menu in every meat and

three through-out the south. And it was always treated as such in my household growing up.

Come to think of it, a lot of the ‘veggies’ I grew up eating were only marginally so. The black eyed-peas

my mom made had large chunks of bacon swimming in them. Collard greens had almost as much ham in

them as leafy greens. Even the green beans had some sort of meat mixed in. Maybe it was an unhealthy

approach in making sure we got enough protein. Maybe it was a way of using up leftovers from previous

meals. Who knows, but it’s how I expect my veggies now.

But back to the Mac and Cheese. A lot of folks grew up thinking it comes from a navy blue box

containing an envelope filled with ‘cheese’. This is not so. This is NOT Mac and Cheese. This is a

convenient abomination. In no part of Wisconsin will you find cheese in a powdered form. They even

have a fancier version whose cheese comes in a semi liquid state, still in an envelope. Nope, this ain’t

cheese either. It is quicker. It is easier. It will satisfy the kids. But it’s an unnatural shade of orange that

doesn’t appear anywhere in nature. Therefore it should be avoided.

My mom’s Mac and Cheese is much different than the box stuff. The box stuff oozes across your plate, it

has no shape. It is semi-gelatinous. My mom’s stands up, it sticks together. It is bound by real cheese, a

bit of butter, and one egg. It’s more like a casserole than warm Jell-O. It is hardy and filling and

incredibly unhealthy. But unhealthy in a good way at least. It’s made with real stuff, not chemicals. You

will die of natural causes like heart disease and stroke. Not from something an autopsy couldn’t


As a matter of fact it is more like a stand-alone meal than a side, to be honest. I’ve made it and eaten it

as my only entrée. Granted I get little to no protein or roughage or riboflavin, but not every meal needs

to be well rounded, does it? I mean it is a southern “veggie” after all. In a place where ‘meaty beans’ is a

vegetable, then surely mac and cheese counts as a whole meal.

Of course my 11 year old daughter won’t eat it. She likes the stuff that comes in the blue box. I could

push it, I could make her eat it. But why would I do that? She will probably end up liking it better than

the plastic stuff and that leaves less for me. What she don’t know only benefits me. And I think I’ll keep

it that way.

Mary Helen’s Mac and Cheese:

1 Egg

½ Onion, chopped

½ cup of milk

2 to 3 cups of shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Salt & pepper

1 ½ to 2 cups of elbow macaroni

Cook macaroni until tender. Cook onion in small amount of oil until translucent. With a fork mix onion,

egg and milk, add cheese and cooked macaroni, salt and pepper to taste. Pour into baking dish sprayed

with Pam, bake covered at 350 for 35 to 45 min or until edges begin to brown.

Travis Hicks

Travis Hicks - Contributing author

Travis Hicks was born and raised in Marietta GA, and with the exception of a very brief period of living in Denver CO has lived in metro Atlanta his entire life. A childhood filled with playing outside until way after the streetlights came on, being an expert on the original Star Wars trilogy and his induction into the Front Yard Football Hall of Fame has produced the bon vivant that is Travis Hicks. Travis developed his palate for true southern food by way of his mom’s cornbread, his dad’s mashed potatoes (and knowing to never let the reverse to ever occur). Also adding to Travis’ culinary expertise is knowing that Barbeque is a noun and never a verb.

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