This morning I had not yet hiked to the road to get the paper so I was looking over an interesting Chirpstory from @dvnix. This link summarizes a Twitter exchange between the writer Jeremy Duns and the journalist Glenn Greenwald about whether the journalist’s coverage of Julian Assange was truly impartial anymore, and I had what seemed like an important thought about it, but I was interrupted by my finishing my coffee and actually needing to get going. Most of the time, my ideas fly away like dry leaves in a gust of sudden wind, but this one flew back to me this evening while I was making macaroni and cheese.
First of all, I would like to say that Jeremy Duns makes some pretty strong points, and Glenn Greenwald, a busy journalist, initially tries to give him a perfunctory brush-off. It is difficult to take pointed criticism, every professional knows, and I sympathize with Greenwald in so far as he is obviously trying to just do his job. Second of all, I would like to say that I think Julian Assange’s refusal to return to Sweden to face charges of sexual assault is dishonorable and disgusting. Hero of free speech or no, no man should be above the law. Thirdly, I would like to say that watching two smart, opinionated people argue on Twitter is pretty entertaining.
But all of these are beside the point, which is this: when someone takes the time to offer you thoughtful, but pointed criticism, they are doing you a favor. I am not saying that I personally enjoy being called out, because I do not. What I am saying is that careful readers who drill into the details you offer and reach different conclusions and then tell you about it are helping you do your job better as a journalist. Even if you do not agree with the criticism, what does it tell you that you are doing wrong? You failed to meet someone’s expectations. Why?
This question blows the dry leaves of my ideas back to homemade macaroni and cheese.
The last time I made macaroni and cheese I made it the same way I have made it every time since I was about 20, which was a very long time ago. I had grown up watching my mother make it, and I needed neither to measure nor to wonder about the process. The last time I made it, I was vaguely dissatisfied with the results. It just seemed too cheesy, and yet a bit too dry. Today, I consulted a recipe, and followed it, and even measured all the ingredients. The result was much better. The recipe appears below. If you have improvements to suggest, I would love to hear them.
Improvable Macaroni and Cheese
Preheat oven to 400F. Boil salted water in a large pot.
When water boils, add 1 pound pasta (elbows, shells, rigatoni, or ziti). Cook for approximately 2 minutes fewer than the instructions on package. Drain pasta, and return to pot.
While pasta is cooking, melt 4 tablespoons of butter in a large saucepan. Add 1/4 cup all-purpose flour and 1 teaspoon dry mustard to saucepan. Cook, whisking, for 1 minute. Whisk in 1 quart whole milk. Bring to a boil and immediately reduce heat to low, simmering until sauce is thickened, 3 to 5 minutes.
Remove sauce from heat. Whisk in 3 cups grated cheese (I used Cabot sharp cheddar and Kerrygold Dubliner); add 1 teaspoon Worcestershire, and salt and pepper to taste.
Stir cheese sauce into pasta, and transfer to a buttered 9”-by-13” baking dish.
Melt 2 tablespoons of butter and stir into about 2 cups of breadcrumbs. Scatter crumb mixture over pasta in baking dish. Follow with a sprinkling of paprika.
Bake 15 to 20 minutes. Allow to cool a few minutes before serving.
My mother liked to tell the story of a dinner guest who got a whole chunk of unmixed dry mustard in his mouth when he ate her mac and cheese at our house; he was too polite to say anything, but she could tell her mistake by the look on his face.