Neil is out-of-town this weekend, so I have the house to myself. I ate breakfast with my mom this morning, and she asked what on Earth I would do with myself for a weekend. I think she was a little shocked when I said my big plans were to clean, organize cabinets, read books and make a pot of macaroni and cheese. She asked if I still had the pot, and all I could do is break into a smile.
Mac and cheese has an odd place in my heart. Growing up in a household where both of my parents worked two or more jobs, we ate it constantly in one or more of their absences. It was the first thing any of us learned to cook, making it an odd right of passage in our little tribe of three. It made us feel like we were contributing to the family.
My mom bequeathed the pot to me when I moved into my first apartment. It was part of their original set and used exclusively for mac. It bears the hairline scratches of a thousand batches. The handle is held together with a muffler clamp my dad MacGyver’d one cold winter night when the three of us needed dinner and we had nothing else to eat.
I really only eat mac and cheese when Neil is out-of-town now, keeping the tradition alive in my own small way. It’s cheap, simple and unsophisticated, and maybe it seems silly to keep making it when I could make something more inspired. But to me, that distantly familiar pot of color that doesn’t occur in nature is a subtle reminder that in our family, absence always makes the heart grow fonder…and stronger.