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REVIEW: Kraft Macaroni & Cheese

I might not be getting paid to write this review, but it was worth it.
by A Furloughed Part-Time Restaurant Critic
The humble, shelf-stable packaged macaroni and cheese traces its origins to the Great Depression, when consumers sought a family dinner that was as affordable and long-lasting as it was mindlessly easy to prepare. Over the years, many companies, most famously Annie's Homegrown, have borne the cross of zhuzhing up the classic dish with gourmet variations. Yet the goal to unseat the original has always been futile. Kraft Macaroni & Cheese arrests the collective American consciousness with an iron grip. There are few experiences as ubiquitous as the childhood memory of running home after school and eating a bowl of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese. 
Within the iconic blue cardboard box lie two blessed components: a sachet of cheese powder (a pleasingly camp orange), and the pasta itself, which is a unique shape that lacks the slight curvature of traditional macaroni. After cooking the pasta (I prefer to cook a few minutes shy of the recommended time on the box, so that the pasta is al dente), one assembles the sauce with cheese powder, milk, and butter, which combine to form a beautifully emulsified sauce that drips with generosity, coating the macaroni inside and out. 
Toothsome, buttery, indulgent: these are the first words that come to mind when I think of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese. The chemical aftertaste only adds to the charm. 
Kraft Macaroni & Cheese lacks the haughty je ne sais quoi of pastas like Carbone's spicy rigatoni alla vodka. It lacks the bells and whistles of David Chang's cosmopolitan miso variation of cacio e pepe. But Kraft Macaroni & Cheese is a pasta that knows what it is, and that is a pasta that possesses the soul of manna — that tastes like nostalgia itself. When you get furloughed from your part time job at Food & Wine in the midst of a global pandemic, Kraft Macaroni & Cheese will cradle you in its familiarity and tell you exactly what you need to hear: some things will never change. 
Kraft Macaroni & Cheese is the quintessential American dish. The sauce-to-pasta ratio is perfect. It is enjoyed by people of all ages, nationalities, and beliefs. Borne out of crisis, it serves as a reminder that luxury can exist in austerity, so long as we know where to find it. 
© 2020