Saturday, October 24, 2009

Like A Raisin In The Sun

Theo was diagnosed with a severe dairy allergy when he was 10 months old; and ever since then we've been an essentially dairy-free family. Which isn't really a bad thing, right? It's hard for anyone to become obese when they can't have ice cream, cheese, and pizza. No overweight kids here! So I'm not complaining.

But all those years, through the subsequent births of 5 more children, I knew I was missing out on an experience as germane to motherhood as giving birth - that of feeding macaroni and cheese to a horde of grateful children. I pictured the little ones clambering to the table, forks in hand, their dinnertime cries of complaint silenced (for once) by the prospect of a meal that no one could hate. On cold winter days, I fantasized about the stomach-filling, cheesy goodness of this most quintessential of comfort foods. I wept over the fact that my children would not have this particular childhood memory to look back on.

Forbidden fruit does have that effect.

So! Theo was barely out the door this past August before I sat down at the computer and printed out macaroni and cheese recipes from the Internet. There were a few false starts, but I can safely say that at this point I have perfected my gooey-cheese-over-pasta technique. I religiously inflict it on my offspring every single Friday, rejoicing that there is one day of the week that I don't have to think about what's for dinner. A healthy, kid-friendly meal that's easy to cook and easy to clean up - what more could a mom ask for?

Well, for starters, she could ask for normal children. Normal, as in children who know a good thing when they see it. Children, say, who can appreciate the simple things in life. Because (wouldn't you know?) Brian and Susie complain every single time...

Yes, 2 of my children regard this particular all-American favorite as child abuse, pure and simple. They protest when they see it on the menu. They cry as I get the ingredients out of the fridge. At the table, the sight of the inoffensive elbow macaroni cloaked in an unassuming yet fragrant cheese sauce makes them wail.

Yet I persevere. I waited 17 years to become a real mom and make macaroni and cheese for my kids. 17 years, people! It's hard to let go of this particular fantasy.

Where does a dream go when it dies?

********************

Friday got lost in the shuffle there - that happens when half the family is sick with a mysterious virus and Mom goes to bed at 7:30. I sure hope Larry remembered to pick up Anna from her drama night at school. Maybe I should check her room...

Typing all this is exhausting. I'm going back to bed.


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23 comments:

  1. I tried to feed my children tater tots and they turned up their nose, so I'm sticking with tomato sandwiches and granola. (They do love mac and cheese, though.)

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  2. Oh, I know what you're talking about. We've only been a special diet household for 2 years. My son is on a low-carb diet that controls his seizures. We've gradually increased the amount of carbs he can have in a day which allows him to now eat small portions of food he wasn't even allowed to sniff before.

    Last week I offered him the option of having a very small slice of regular REAL pizza. I wanted him to love it and be grateful and cry with me on this new turn of events. But he wanted his "special" pizza. So, anticlimactic.

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  3. My three year old is gluten free now. Last night he spent the night at his aunt's house. When I left to go to the store, my older boys were sitting at the table cramming slices of white bread (not even toasted!!!) down their throats as fast and furiously as they could. I myself bought cheese to eat on *real* crackers and happily made pumpkin pie in a graham cracker crust. Heaven!

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  4. I usually do from-the-box, for the younger kids. My oldest can't overdo the dairy (although he is not allergic like Theo, he has a dairy sensitivity and we're careful about it). But I just tried a mac&cheese recipe from the latest issue of Kiwi Magazine, with whole wheat pasta and carrots! And it was SO GOOD! The baby ate it with single-minded purpose. Not one piece of food missed her mouth.

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  5. Before Laura was born we stopped doing dairy, not for allergy reasons (although mine went away completely when I cut out dairy, and when I flirt with it, my sinuses and stomach unite to remind me that dairy milk is made for cows). We've do soy mac & cheese. Although Laura will eat the other kind when she's out in the world, she prefers soy. I guess it becomes a matter of what you're used to having. Anywho, have you tried any soy mac recipes? It's all about finding the right cheese. By the way, she really likes the Amy's frozen soy mac & cheese, which I can get away with budget-wise because I'm only feeding one child. :-)

    I hope you're feeling better today.

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  6. I get some complaints when I make it homemade...if I just dump a box of Kraft (or generic) mac & cheese in the pot, I suddenly become mother of the year. Whatever.

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  7. I know just how you feel. Wrote a piece about the same sort of experience a while back. You have a vision. You try to make it and you get back "this taste like yuck." kiss o death for the meal ever being served again.

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  8. To confess, the only kind of mac and cheese I've ever liked is the blue box kind. I've tried at least a dozen different recipes for homestyle mac and cheese and all of them literally left a bad taste in my mouth. Luckily my mom was a big fan of the box, and now that I have kids, they are, too. But I also know the horror of cooking something absolutely delicious and having my kids refuse to eat it. Le sigh.

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  9. I have a few of my kids who feel that way too. Any form of mac and cheese and they weep, and wail, and nash their teeth!

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  10. I'm with Molly - and mine even refer to Easy Mac as 'real' mac n cheese while the box kind is fake.

    They also hate cereal with milk and Pop Tarts. Clearly my real children were abducted by aliens.

    Feel better!

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  11. Mine prefer the mac and cheese in the box. I like Patti LaBelles recipe http://www.oprah.com/recipe/food/recipespasta/food_20020726_overrainbow I put in milk, not half and half and cut the butter to 1/4 cup to cut down on the fat.

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  12. Boy, can I relate. Whenever our new-college-graduate is off with her friends we have something with dairy in it for dinner because we can.

    As for the complainers, I found with my four that if I just kept sticking it in front of them without making a fuss over it, after awhile it became normal food to them and they just ate it without thinking much about it.

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  13. My kids do not have a dairy allergy and I still hav not found a mac and cheese recipe that they like better than good ol kraft dinner!

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  14. I do not like Mac and Cheese.
    3/4 of my children do not like Mac and Cheese.
    The one that does like it will only eat the Easy Mac, and he lives on that and PB&J sandwiches.

    No matter what I make for dinner, there's at least one kid who will look at it and say "Do you really expect me to eat this?"

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  15. You want to give them something to cry about? Make them that mac and cheese in the blue box!!

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  16. OMG!! I cannot allow myself to have mac and cheese because I will eat waaay too much of it. IT ROCKS! ESPECIALLY homemade mac and cheese.

    I'm seriously confused by kids these days!

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  17. No food allergies here (except that Hubby is allergic to fish) but I still have one who doesn't like Mac and Cheese. I always say I can get two out of the three of them to agree on any food, but not all three.

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  18. So you have perfected Mac and Cheese? Would you be able to share your recipe? I love Mac and Cheese.

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  19. Change the shape of the noodle. The elbow=yucky.

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  20. I fed the box version to the first boy when he was old enough to enjoy it. He broke out in hives. We had to wait many years before trying again. To this day, the box is the only acceptable kind to any of my kids. I've tried homemade but no one will eat it.
    However, if I really want them to eat and be happy? I make up a big pot of Ramen (very little liquid) and add a couple of cans of Pork-n-Beans. I've never been so thanked in all my life! Who knew that "Mother of the Year" award could be given for serving GRUB to your kids?

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  21. I'm sad for you about the mac n cheese. Mine hate grilled cheese sandwiches & to me that is as sad as not liking mac n cheese.

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  22. What time is dinner at your house? I'll be there with bells on. ~annie

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  23. What does Theo eat in college? If his allergy is so severe how does he make sure no dairy gets into his food?

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