How Mac and Cheese Became an Iconic American Dish

Tom Blank of Weird History Food took a look back at the gooey history of macaroni and cheese, noting how it was first served in Italy and across Europe.

Whether you make it fresh or from a box and whether you know it or not when you eat mac and cheese you’re taking part in a multinational Heritage that stretches back centuries and across the Atlantic but how did this delicious dish make its way to the U.S?

The dish made its way to the United States via James Hemings. Hemings was Thomas Jefferson‘s slave who was sent to Paris to receive formal training in French cuisine and came back with a number of recipes, including one for french fries and one for macaroni pie (the early version of the dish). From there, the word gained immense popularity amongst those who could afford it.

Jefferson’s 19 year old enslaved cook James Hemings came with him on his 1784 trip to Paris while there Hemings studied French cooking techniques under the supervision of Master Parisian chefs. He and Jefferson returned to Virginia and Hemings brought his Newfound knowledge back to Jefferson’s Monticello estate.

With the boom in industrialization, both cheese and noodles became more available to the masses. That’s when James L. Kraft got into the game.

Chicago salesman James L Kraft would develop his own competing process by grinding up cheddar cheese with sodium phosphate his process was the first in the world to receive a patent….when the Great Depression struck Kraft sought to further cash in on his cheap product in 1937 his company released the first ever boxed macaroni and cheese for just 19 cents.

The rest, as they say, is history.

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