Recipe: Mac & Cheese and Memory LaneFeb 02, 2020
Photograph by Lea Haas
Winter is a time of reflection and restoration that connects us to our memories, our food and ourselves…and for me Mac & Cheese (I’ve got a vegan version for you)
Winter is decidedly a good time for reconnecting with the parts of you that make you who you truly are.
The past few weeks I’ve taken advantage of Mother’s Nature’s whisper to slow down, retreat, refuel — and in doing so, have been tumbling down the rabbit hole of nostalgia.
There is nothing like New York City of the late 70’s and early 80’s. Gritty, covered in graffiti, boomboxes and break dancing — all a little scary and exciting at the same time. Reading Debbie Harry’s memoir, Face It is reminding me of those days; Catholic elementary school in the Bronx, my very first trip to Greenwich Village with my big sister and my mom cooking pancakes for dinner.
I first learned about Blondie on an episode of the Muppet Show in 1982 (I was 10). The next day at school she was all we could talk about. ‘Heart of Glass’ was our pre-teen anthem. From there I began to devour her every album and 45 that came out. I learned the words to all of her songs by heart.
Going forward, in my first year in high school (Art & Design in NYC) I bought this amazing white denim jacket and I painted the back in black and white stripes with Blondie written in red across the back, just like the cover of her Parallel Lines album. I wish I still had a picture, but I remember it well. I also recall receiving that album for Christmas one year and playing the songs for my family. My grandfather was very concerned about the line “Once I had a love and it was a gas, soon turned out to be a pain in the ass,” and pointing it out to my mother. He thought I was too young to hear such language. Boy, have times changed.
This was a time of expansion in my life. I began to see things I wanted, and to dream of places I wanted to go.
One philosophy that was instilled in me as I grew up, and has served me very well through life — is that if there is something I like or want but can’t afford, I can make it instead.
I come from a lineage of DIY’ers (Do It Yourself-ers) before we even knew it was a ‘thing’. Because I loved books and paper so much, I made my own tomes filled with ‘How To’s’, crafts, comics and paper dolls. I traced images and copied words using my typewriter from my favorite books at the local library. That memory was really brought home the last few weeks while working on the Garden Cafe’s first print volume of our quarterly 'mini-book'. Translating the physical cut and paste into a computer design program was a huge learning curve, but a very satisfying one (eventually). Working so closely with Lea and those who believe in my passions and ideas has kept me focused and motivated enough to help bring this into the world. I can’t wait for you to see it.
It is fun to reminisce and I encourage you to take a stroll down memory lane from time to time. It’s not about living in the past, but rather to remind you of who you are — what made you, YOU and brought you to today. Each of those things informed the whole, they are a part of you — the things you like to do, the music you listen to and the food you love to eat.
Talk about memory lane: this was Chef Moss' first book
Mac & Cheese is one of those comfort-food dishes that I love and that always sparks memories and daydreams. Finding a vegan alternative that yields delicious results again and again has taken lots of fine tuning (and some failed messes). But I have found a method that I love, for now. It may change again as I continue to learn and grow. But here is my current favorite recipe. For a gluten-free version like we serve in the café — Jovial makes a great organic rice pasta that is sturdy and tastes great too.
Mac & ‘Cheese’ with Green Peas
- 1 medium-to-large peeled and cooked sweet potato (1 ½ cups)
- 2 cups raw cashews soaked overnight and drained
- 1 cup water
- 2 tsp salt
- ¼ cup + 1TBSP olive oil
- 1 clove fresh garlic
- 2 TBSP nutritional yeast
- 1 lb. of your favorite pasta
- 1 cup frozen green peas defrosted
- Cook your pasta according to the directions on the box. Strain and toss with a little oil.
- Place in a blender the soaked cashews, water, salt, olive oil, garlic and nutritional yeast. Blend until smooth and creamy. Add a little more water if the mixture is too thick for your blender.
- Add the sweet potato to the blender and blend until thoroughly mixed together.
- Warm up the sauce in a large saucepan and toss in the cooked pasta. Add in the defrosted frozen peas and stir.
If you haven’t soaked your cashews overnight, pour boiled water over them and cover with a lid. Let them soak for about 10 minutes until softened.
~ Chef Christine Moss, The Garden Cafe Woodstock