Wednesday, September 18, 2013

198. Macaroni and Cheese

You sit cross-legged on damp, chilly ground, and stare at your cooking pot in defiance of the old phrase pertaining to pots, and their refusal to boil when watched. It seems to stare back at you with the cool unconcern of a hipster store clerk who may or may not come to your assistance when you get thoroughly trapped in a pair of skinny jeans in the fitting room of a store that is way too hip for you.

"Who, me?" Your pot seems to ask, shrugging its titanium shoulders and lazily looking around, "You need my help? It seems like you got yourself into this mess all by yourself, and it's not really my problem. I'll boil when I feel like it."

You grind your teeth quietly, knowing that its always taken this long to boil, and that you'll eat eventually. You are so hungry though, and its your fourth or fifth day since you've been in a town and anywhere near fresh food. You've saved this particular bag of boilable food for the hardest hiking day that week. Over the past few nights you ate your way through your instant mashed potatoes, rice and ramen, saving the best treat for when you really earn it. You're not really sure why you don't just eat what you really want every night, except for that nagging fear that you might get sick of it. 

The water finally boils in spite of itself, rolling over in somewhat begrudging cheerfulness. You peel open the ziploc bag, into which you had painstakingly poured 3 individual EasyMac (or Velveeta) packets earlier that week. You gingerly pick out the 3 anonymous white bags of neon orange "cheese" powder and set them aside. With delightful anticipation, you upend the bag all at once, dumping the uncooked macaroni into the water. It sounds like the rainstick you made in 2nd grade, that one made out of a paper towel tube and decoupaged with cut-outs from NatGeo Kids, because you like nature and stuff. 

The noodles are swallowed up by the water, wiggling and dancing. They slowly expand, turning from crunchy noodle rocks into soft yummy gooeyness. You watch it boil, refusing to be distracted by anyone or anything during this sacred process. This is your favorite meal. You just hiked 20 miles and you want this to be good. There's not many other ways to reward yourself in the woods, as you are restricted to what you already have in your backpack, or possibly, what you can steal out of your friend's backpack while they are in the privy*.

Finally the noodles are done. You are an expert at making this concoction at this point; you are a connoiseur of the mac. College was just a training ground, the microwave a handicap for the less experienced. You're in the big leagues now, and you've used exactly the right amount of water, such that no draining is necessary and there's the perfect amount left to absorb the cheese powder.

What you have not become an expert at is getting all of the cheese powder into the pot without getting at least some of it on your fingers. On the plus side, you are a proud, gross hiker who has no problem whatsoever just licking that radioactive dust right off those dirty digits. You stir the mix with your spork, humming to yourself with happiness. 

There is a legend that every day, when the sun sets over the horizon, it comes to rest on the other side of the hill, where it is left to cool. From there, the giant yellow ball is harvested to make margarine, and in special cases, grated into a fine filmy dust to be used on instant macaroni. 

This is what the first bite tastes like. It tastes like the sun, like all of the world's joy rolled into one sticky goo-ball of cheese. Lucky for you, the second bite also tastes this way. In fact, all of the bites do. It does not matter that what you are eating is so unnatural that it could probably also be used to absorb plutonium spills. It is glorious. It is terrific.

Clever Girl

*I would not recommend this. You think you can run faster than your friend, but you can't. You just can't.

Oh my god you just ate this.

200 Terrific Things


  1. 200 Terrific Things is a 'fan'tastic idea. There was going to be serious withdrawal....

    Was there any one particular food that you craved?

    1. Oh my gosh that's a list that might never end! I definitely missed eggs and pancakes... Mostly good breakfast food. There weren't a lot of good breakfast food options to bring on the trail (poptarts and dry cereal got a little monotonous).

  2. Oh my God, we did just eat this! We're living vicariously thru mac and cheese. Can't wait for 197! Love, Mom and Dad

  3. Haha thanks guys! I bet you ate Annie's though. Mmmmm....