Did you know that Canadians love macaroni and cheese so much, we purchase almost 12% of all boxed mac ‘n cheese produced, and eat 55% more of it than Americans? Yeah, we love our cheesy goodness. Cheesy, creamy, neon orange, or covered in ketchup, chances are you’ve tried a number of macaroni and cheese dishes and loved every second of it. Well, good news for all you mac ‘n cheese lovers out there: Mac ‘n Cheese Smackdown is back!

Last year’s competition, our 4th annual Smackdown, was a huge success which served over 500 people heaping servings of each chef-crafted mac ‘n cheese. Coming up on Thursday, November 3rd, our campus chefs, new and old, will be battling it out once again for the title of Mac ‘n Cheese Champion! Last year our Director of Culinary Operations and Executive Chef, Chef Jaco, took home the trophy and title with his Asiago Mac ‘n Cheese with Ontario Woodland Mushrooms topped with Panko and Herbs (which won by six votes!). Our event was even covered by Toronto Star journalist, Jonathan Forani, who wrote an article including Chef Jaco’s recipe for his trophy-winning mac.

But how did our beloved de facto national dish come to be? Though nothing quite like the miraculous origins of chili, mac ‘n cheese has some interesting tricks up its historical sleeves.

Now, we have the “written” history or mac and cheese, or the folklore side. What both strains of history can agree upon is the dish’s origins in Europe. Cookbooks as early as the 14th century contained recipes eerily similar to that of the modern macaroni and cheese casserole. For example, the Italian medieval cookbook, Liber de Coquina (Book of Cooking), and the Middle English The Forme of Cury both have similar recipes. A real mac and cheese recipe didn’t appear, however, until Elizabeth Raffald’s book, The Experienced English Housekeeper, was published in 1769.

On the folklore side of mac ‘n cheese, we have Thomas Jefferson. While many generally assume the dish was simply brought over with colonial settlers, like pretty much everything else we have today, others tell the tale of Thomas Jefferson returning from Europe a man mad for mac and cheese. In 1787, Jefferson had returned from a trip to Europe with a pasta machine and noodle recipe, because he tried a dish in Italy he loved so much he had to bring it back. Apparently, he even tried to create a better pasta machine himself, though no one knows if he was successful, and he served macaroni and cheese at a state dinner in 1802. Just think, a President of the United States loved macaroni and cheese so much, he served it to dignitaries or nobility or who knows who else, in the early 19th century. Now that is a dish truly loved by North America.

So, make Thomas Jefferson proud and come out to Mac ‘n Cheese Smackdown on November 3rd! For $5 you can try all the campus chefs’ own mac ‘n cheese recipes and vote for your favourite. But first, more fun mac ‘n cheese facts!

  • Kraft began selling their boxed macaroni and cheese in 1937 (in the height of the Great Depression) and sold a whopping nine million boxes in their first year. For 19¢, a box could feed four people.
  • Today, more than one million boxes are sold daily.
  • In 1993, Crayola released a “Macaroni and Cheese” colour crayon.
  • The largest macaroni and cheese dish was made on September 23rd, 2010 in New Orleans and weighed 2,469 lbs.
  • The fastest time to eat a box of Kraft mac ‘n cheese was set by Travis Mizekewski for 33.80 seconds.

Can’t wait? Get a sneak peak for what to expect at this year’s Smackdown: take a look at last year’s event album on Facebook!

– Emily Hotton

Sources:

Crayola – Crayon Chronology
The Daily Meal – 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Kraft Macaroni & Cheese
Food52 – The History of Macaroni and Cheese
Guinness World Records – Largest Macaroni and Cheese
Record Setter – Mac and Cheese World Records
Smithsonian – Marvellous Macaroni and Cheese