Friday, May 23, 2014

Mac and cheese smackdown (Mac-down? Just go with it)!

The time has come! To compare all the boxed macaroni and cheeses! Only one shall emerge victorious in these hunger games (see what I did there? eh? eh?)! 

     First, some ground rules: everything is kind of held against the standard of regular Kraft mac, because it's the American standard and whatnot. Also I didn't take calories or nutrition into account because I feel like if you're making mac and cheese health is obviously not your top priority, you just want delicious orange cheese-product. SO! Let's get to it. 

In one corner: NEW! Goldfish mac & cheese (cheddar version)

     They have other flavors of this, one of which I believe is pizza, but that's disgusting so no. We're sticking to basics here. If you want some horrifying bastardization of a classic, by all means, try the pizza flavor.

     This one wins points at least for having a cartoon on the back, so that's kind of fun. Unfortunately I think that's where the point-winning ends. 

     This picture obviously had the lens all fogged up from the steaminess of the mac, but I picked it anyway because it makes it look better than it actually was, and I'm charitable like that. This was...not great. The holes in the goldfish-shaped noodles close up once the noodles expand, so there's nothing to grab the cheese. There's a reason macaroni noodles are shaped like that: it holds cheese inside! So this ended up being a lot...noodlier tasting than I'd like. Also the cheese sauce wasn't great. If you think Kraft cheese sauce tastes artificial, try this and report back to me. Your stance will have changed. This sauce tasted like an approximation of cheese flavor, as engineered by a lonesome scientist who has never tasted cheese before and wants to punish those who have. I mean, real talk: it wasn't so bad that I didn't eat it. Amanda and I agreed that it kind of got better the more we had, sort of like tequila.

FINAL VERDICT: Doesn't compete with original Kraft mac. Is food in the technical sense that it will prolong your life slightly if you are starving to death. Thumbs down, would not eat on purpose. 

In the opposing corner: Betty Crocker Mac & Cheese (original)

     No cartoons on the back of this one (boo, hiss), but they do tell you all about how they do box tops for education, so...yay I guess? I dunno, I feel weird about the box tops program because I think it's kind of messed up that they'll only give money to schools if you send them a portion of their mangled packaging, like when a kidnapper sends the cops one of their hostage's pinky fingers to prove they've got them. Like, how about you just give schools money because obviously you have some to spare since you volunteered for this program anyway, then put on the back of your box "We're not a bunch of greedy bastards, we gave money to support education without having to have it extorted from us through old-school mob tactics" and then I'll buy it because hey, there's an attitude I can get behind. But whatever. 

I kind of want to make this my wallpaper? I dunno, I have food feelings.
     This one tasted pretty much exactly like Kraft. The amounts of butter and milk are the same, even. It had a little less of that day-glo orange Kraft has that makes you feel like if you ate enough of it you'd probably get radiation-induced superpowers, so that's either a pro or a con depending on your worldview. It brought me back to my childhood spent eating noodles that Jennie had flung at the wall (if they stick they're done) and having contests to see who could swallow the biggest bite without chewing (she was a great babysitter; I still have to consciously force myself to chew sometimes). 

FINAL VERDICT: Pretty good. If Kraft does something stupid and horrible and you have to boycott them, this is a totally passable substitution. I hope that doesn't happen though because they'd actually be kind of impossible to boycott; Kraft owns EVERYTHING. They're the Google of the supermarket. One thumb up, would eat if someone else made it and I didn't have something else in mind already. 

In...another corner? How many corners are supposed to be occupied in this analogy? Oh well: Kraft Macaroni & Cheese (Thick and Creamy)

    I didn't actually get around to making this because after the last two trials I was kind of mac'd out and felt like I should eat something for dinner in which none of the first five ingredients were "color." Color is not a food. Color is light interacting with your eyeballs. It has no nutritional value. You cannot eat color. 

     That said, I've had the Thick and Creamy Kraft dozens of times before and it is easily the best boxed mac you can buy. It's exactly what it says on the box: thicker and creamier than the original. The noodles are bigger and you don't end up with that three tablespoons of weird orange water at the bottom of the pot. It's probably even worse for you than the original somehow (I don't really know how, you don't add more milk or butter than the original, and the cheese is still just a packet of astronaut food, but it tastes more caloric somehow). It's also more satisfying to eat because of the bigger noodles, I think. 

FINAL VERDICT: Ultimate comfort food, a win for being super delicious but still really fast and easy. Two thumbs up, elicits "MAN YOU KNOW I WANT SOME MAC AND CHEESE" response when asked to partake. 

BONUS ROUND, let's mix all the metaphors! 

     If you want the best mac and cheese around, you'll have to put in a little more work. This recipe is the best, best, best macaroni, this is it. I make it for cookouts and special dinners because people ask for it all the time. It's got all the goodness and creaminess and cheesiness of boxed mac, with the added texture and flavor of gooey melted cheese on top. It's also a lot more substantial -- sometimes with boxed macaroni you eat a bowl of it and then go "That...was not filling." This stuff will fill you up. If you're a lover of mac & cheese, you absolutely have to try this recipe sometime. You'll thank me later! 

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