A Bit About Me
Written by Tam
I grew up in the kitchen assisting my mom, a very talented cook. I can remember kneading dough, stirring big bowls of dry and wet ingredients, snapping green beans. Growing up in my home, I woke up to the scent of sugar cookie oatmeal on Saturday mornings. I knew not to ask what my mom was making for dinner, instead I’d wait patiently with anticipation. Going out to eat was a special treat so often my mom would bring the excitement of stopping at one of the international restaurants on 4th street into our home.
My mom loved trying different flavors from different cultures, meaning I tried a variety of different, modified recipes from friends who shared their food cultures with the woman who ran the kitchen in my home. I can recall a year where my mom almost exclusively cooked curry, most certainly creating the foundation for my insatiable love of curry now.
I’ve always loved food and am grateful for the many different styles my family enjoyed, however working alongside a chef can be intense.
When I moved out I stayed out of the kitchen, buying takeout for the convenience of it or surviving off of tortilla chips and applesauce - diet of champions. Since I grew up cooking, there are basics that are established in my mind: how to make a sauce from scratch, cleaning and cutting meat and vegetables, etc.
The ability to cook was there but I lacked the desire.
When quarantine began in March of 2020, the choice to buy takeout vanished due to restaurant closures and a change in my budget. I knew that I would have to adapt to the change the best I could. Luckily I had good company in the kitchen that helped me redefine the way I move around the space. I learned to appreciate the different smells, colors, and the science of cooking in a way I hadn’t before.
I also realized how good it felt to feed the people I care for. How loving of an act it is to provide someone with nourishment; to have taken the time to prepare something.
Not only for those I share company with but for myself. I adopted a new level of pride and I love to call upon my mom with curiosity about recipes I remember loosely from my childhood, and she will always have a thousand details to gladly offer, in return our relationship has strengthened with time.
One of those recipes is her baked macaroni and cheese recipe, a necessity at both holidays and cookouts. I’ve always been picky about the dish (as all people should be) and both of my mothers have a recipe that they’ve modified from elders that came before them. Being Black in America a great part of our cultural heritage was stripped from our ancestors, leaving gaps in our history and plenty of unanswered questions. Soul food is another example of the resilience of a community of people able to tether themselves to each other, the earth, to show a form of care for the self. While macaroni and cheese is a western classic and a simple dish to prepare, it stands out as one of the first dishes I prepared for a friendly potluck and I love having been able to share my own version. Looking forward, I feel liberated and confident to explore the beauty of food and how much love can be felt in the preparation of a plate.
Mac & Cheese
Bloomington Townie + African American tradition
Comfort Food Inspiration:
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Large elbow macaroni noodles
Milk (of your choice)
Block sharp cheddar cheese
Block mild cheddar cheese
Block gouda cheese (or your preferred option)
(All seasoning to taste)
Tony’s Creole Seasoning
Salt and pepper
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit.
In a large pot, melt your butter on low to medium heat and add a small spoonful of flour. This will be the base for your roux. Whisk the butter and flour together until it’s blended and reaches a light golden-brown color and even consistency.
Add your milk and allow for it to heat up. At this point you will add the garlic, onion, cayenne, and creole seasoning to your mixture. Feel free to add salt and pepper at this point as well but be mindful of the portioning as you will still have to add your cheese to this mixture.
In a medium size pot, add a quart of water and allow it to boil. Once it reaches a rolling boil, add your pasta and allow it to cook for the instructed time until al dente. When pasta is finished cooking, strain it (keeping a small portion of pasta water) and set the pasta to the side.
My family recipe prefers freshly shredded cheese to that of pre-shredded cheese but of course choose what is most convenient and flavorful to you. At this point you will take half of the portion you have for each cheese and add it to your pot of milk. Once all of the cheese is melted, the consistency of the mixture should be thicker than that of the milk and you should feel slight resistance when stirring.
Add a dollop of sour cream to your cheesy mixture and allow it to blend.
Now you will add the pasta to a long, buttered baking pan and slowly pour in your cheese mixture layering in the leftover shredded cheese as you go.
Place the pan in the oven to bake for roughly 20 minutes, checking as you go. In the last 5 minutes of that time, turn the broiler on low and top off your pan with any leftover shredded cheese. Remove from the oven when the top of your dish is a golden-brown color and all cheese is melted.
Serve and enjoy!