Husband is the friendly sort, and invited his two ex girlfriends to the wedding; one of them gave us a recipe for macaroni and cheese. I’d never met her before, but she has a warmth and kindness that I noted in the barn where we all ate dinner and danced the evening away, and I see why he liked her. I felt a weird kinship with her, for having liked the same man.
Early on in our dating time, I met one of Husband’s best friends, D. It was at a dinner with friends of mine, and everyone was treating us somewhat like untested material – my friend L was asking all kinds of questions about Husband and telling him ridiculous stories of me in college, embarrassing me thoroughly and delighting him. D had only one question for me, so I thought I was going to get off easy, but it was an odd one. “Do you like condiments?” he asked, causing Husband to chuckle.
I uneasily said “Not really?” because I had always thought bright red ketchup and scary yellow mustard were awful. I didn’t load my sandwiches up with mayo or hot sauce, though I did sometimes want something, barbecue sauce or something else, to dip my french fries in. But even that was a recent development – I hoped that D wasn’t about to tell me that Husband was a die-hard ketchup fan. “Good,” he said. “(Husband) hates condiments.”
As I’ve gotten more into cooking and developed a healthy respect for the utility and deliciousness of sauces in general, I’ve eased up on a variety of condiments, but Husband stands strong – other than a little cup of buffalo sauce to amp up any particular dish that doesn’t properly singe his insides, he doesn’t partake. One of his favorite dishes from Cincinnati, chili cheese coneys, customarily comes with a dash of bright mustard that is mostly swallowed by other flavors. I have grown to like it in that moderate capacity; Husband, on the other hand, actually sends his food back if someone forgets and puts the dread mustard on it.
All of this to say that when A’s baked macaroni and cheese recipe contained a teaspoon of dry mustard, I knew that I was being given a challenge – could Husband figure out that this recipe has mustard in it and turn up his nose, or would it amply disguise itself amongst the other delicious flavors? I appreciated A issuing this challenge for me.
I personally still don’t favor traditional mustard – it’s stringent in a way that I just cannot abide. What has truly won me over is honey mustard – I rarely want honey by itself except as a sweetener in baked goods, but there is something truly separate about the mixture of honey and mustard, creating something unlike either of the previous flavors. I recently tried a blackberry-flavored honey mustard and it was all I could do not to slurp it up straight from the jar – so delicious.
Still, I thought the dry mustard was an important investment because if mac and cheese took on a honey flavor, even if it was unexpectedly delicious, it was sure to cue Husband in and make him guess the ingredient. And obviously I’m looking to deceive him, not make a delicious dish… oh wait… anyway.
Showing my true colors, I was so amped up about sneaking mustard into my husband’s food that I didn’t take the time to actually buy… noodles. I assumed, because of my love of tricolor rotini and Husband’s penchant for angel hair, we both bought plenty of pasta over the weeks and we’d obviously still have some… right? As it turned out, we had exactly 1/2 a cup of rotini and a half box of angel hair left. Does angel-hair make mac and cheese? In our house, I guess it does.
In the end, Husband loved my weird cheese and two-kinds-of-pasta mixture, but I am certain it needed a second go of it. I made the dish again a month later, to much better results. Still, I felt triumphant that first batch, because Husband dug in with gusto and the presence of the mustard evaded his senses. When told, he continued eating. His rationale? “Dried mustard isn’t as bad as real mustard,” he said. I maintain that I pulled one over on him; anyone who knows his penchant for teasing and pranks knows that this is only what he deserves.
A’s Baked Mac and Cheese
- 1 cup cooked elbow noodles
- 3 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place mac in 1 qt. cassarole dish and stir butter, egg, salt, mustard, and 2.5 cups of cheese. Pour milk over mixture. Top with remaining .5 cup of cheese. Cover with foil and cook for 20 minutes. Uncover and cook for 10-12 minutes. Enjoy!