When I think of Mac and Cheese, I tend to think of the boxed product of tiny noodles and a cheese powder. I’ve eaten it many times in my life. It made many appearances on my plate as a child, and I have many positive associations with it. It was an expression of love from my parents, a part of American food culture, and no doubt satisfied my hunger and cravings many times.
As I grew older, I became aware of several critiques of mac and cheese. I think that these fall into five different categories:
1. Mac and cheese is not the only food out there.
There is a rich culinary world out there that can bring pleasure and sustenance. One’s diet should consist of lots of different kinds of food in order to be well-balanced.
2. Mac and cheese is a delicious, but non-nutritious food.
Some may argue that there are lots of great things about mac and cheese, but it is not nutritious and should not be a part of anyone’s diet. It fills you up, but does not contribute to the things you actually need from food to create a healthy body and mind.
3. Mac and cheese doesn’t belong in this restaurant.
The particular restaurant that we are creating doesn’t need to offer mac and cheese because it is regularly available in other locations. The cooks in this restaurant are trained in different cuisines. Some of which may seem exotic to those who are used to eating mac and cheese. Their dishes may not be built around any noodle or cheese product at all! Still, these dishes have an audience that may or may not overlap with mac and cheese lovers, and those who are preparing them are not obligated to also serve mac and cheese because some other customers demand it.
4. Some mac and cheese is bad, but that doesn’t mean it is all bad.
Gourmet mac and cheese is delicious, and much healthier than the cheap, mass produced kind. This view accepts many of the problems with mac and cheese, but seeks to reform the image of the product by producing better versions (not just taking 20-50 year old boxes off the shelf and serving it as fresh food).
5. Mac and cheese is disgusting.
In this view, there is nothing redeeming about mac and cheese. It is simply gag-inducing garbage food. Those who make it and those who enjoy it are awful people who are the cause of all that is unholy in our society. If we can simply destroy mac and cheese, we will bless the lives of millions who will thank us and our posterity in perpetuity.
For defenders of mac and cheese, it seems warranted to pay greater attention to the kind of critiques one is actually facing. There is a great deal of difference between these different perspectives. For instance, treating critics in the #2 or #4 category as a hostile attack on the same order as #5 may be rhetorically persuasive, but misses the actual argument. Perhaps a better dialogue will lead to more healthy, and better mac and cheese overall.