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the occasions lady and

A New Cook in the Kitchen
by Audrey Poff, illustration by Brittney Guest

Last month, our youngest daughter, Sophie, decided to make a few dishes of her own to take to holiday gatherings with friends.

To her credit, she asked me for the recipe and then went to the store and purchased all of the ingredients by herself. The following night, she began putting one of our family’s favorite comfort foods, homemade macaroni and cheese, together in our kitchen.

Since I have made the dish for a number of years, I offered a few suggestions that aren’t part of the original recipe but that can simplify the process. Let the butter melt over the hot noodles to save time, cover the pan with foil while baking until the last few minutes to avoid crunchy noodles -– just a few simple things you learn from experience.

Since Sophie was going to take a double recipe of mac and cheese to an informal gathering at school, I encouraged her to purchase a few disposable pans for baking. I also cautioned her that foil pans are flimsy. If she was going to bake in them the following day, I suggested that she place a cookie sheet under them.

After an hour or so, Sophie had two pans of macaroni and cheese that were ready to cover and place in the refrigerator until the next day. I opened the door to the refrigerator and she placed the first pan on the bottom shelf. She returned with the second pan a minute later. As I held the door open once again, she began placing the second pan of macaroni and cheese in the refrigerator. In the blink of an eye, macaroni and cheese began sliding out of the pan into the refrigerator, down the freezer door and onto the kitchen floor. There were noodles on Sophie and noodles on top of our dog’s head. As our shih tzu, Bella, prepared for a feast, Sophie scooped her out of the macaroni and cheese and in the process, accidentally banged Bella’s head on the open refrigerator door.

When Sophie left the kitchen to put the dog outside, I surveyed the damage – unbaked macaroni and cheese everywhere. Paper towels, a dustpan, sponges, an all-purpose cleaner and a dozen Clorox wipes later, most of the mess was cleaned up. Bella, however, was still running around the kitchen with cheese sauce on the top of her head.

Sophie has since mastered the homemade macaroni and cheese recipe. Like most of us, she made a few mistakes along the way, but it’s now a tradition she will be able to continue.

This year, I am delighted to have a new cook helping in the kitchen. We might have to mop the floor and give the dog a bath in the process, but let the holiday baking begin!