Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Great American Melting Pot

My children spent their formative years in the home of a lovely Afghani woman.   No, scratch that--she's an American.   They grew up on rice laced with carrots and raisins, and she could stew an eggplant until it tasted like candy.  If I could only repeat that feat, my children might actually eat vegetables.  But besides feeding my children, she did the only thing that really mattered to me as a working mother:  she loved my children.

My hairdresser, who depending on the day, I might actually love more than my children, is Iranian- or was, I should say.  He's an American now too.  He is living in suburbia with his wife and two kids, and he's an absolute artist when it comes to hair color.  No one knows when my roots show because he has managed to match his dyes to my natural hair color.  At the risk of sounding hyperbolic, if there was a Nobel prize for hair color (and why isn't there?) this man would be standing on the Stockholm stage every year.

Queso-blanco; diced small
Another "new" American is a friend of mine, who like my grandfather, came to this country when he was 17 and taught himself English.  Unlike my grandfather,  this guy makes a mean macaroni and cheese.   It  uses-of all things-queso blanco, a cheese from Latin American that I didn't even know existed until he told me about it.  It must be good because they sell it at Costco in a two pack.   It's a subtle and mild cheese, and for those who grew up on the macho of cheddar for their mac-n-cheese, you may find it too mild.   Nonetheless, this version of mac-n-cheese is remarkably simple--you take this Mexican cheese, cut in up into small pieces, melt it over pasta with a little milk and butter, salt and pepper, add some parsley,  and voila!.  It's the perfect metaphor for what should be our immigration policy:  something simple that let's good people come to this country to share their best gifts and talents.


1.   Cook one pound of your favorite macaroni, al dente.

2.  Add 1 cup finely dice queso-blanco and heat over low heat, with a tablespoon of butter until the cheese begins to melt.  Stir constantly.  A word of warning here, queso-blanco doesn't melt into a nice creamy roux; even with the coaxing of some butter, it's a cheese that stubbornly keeps its shape.  By the end a lot of the cheese had glommed onto my stirring spoon, and I had to keep scraping it off.  Eventually, I managed to get the cheese fairly evenly distributed, but if look elsewhere if you want an alfredo-like sauce.

3.  Add fresh chopped parsley--about 1/3 of a cup, a generous dose of pepper, and salt.

The Final Product
4.  Voila: a macaroni-n-cheese that doubles as pasta salad.

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