Today is slightly bittersweet as I just handed over my final two restaurant pans of ooey gooey noodles and cheese.
It all started about 12 years ago when the then youth pastor of our church started a week-long service conference called “Explosion.” For five days young people from the church and their friends came for service projects, music, speakers, and fun.
Oh, I forgot one thing…food! They were fed lunch and dinner each day.
Hubby and I volunteered that first year to head up the kitchen and serve the ten meals. I felt so good about it all that I was finally able to commit to applying for culinary school. The kids and leaders all signed a T-shirt to wish me well, and I often wore it under my chef jacket when I needed some encouragement.
One of the lunches that first year was mac and cheese. I gave it a personal touch by not only having a cheese sauce but adding cubed cheese with the noodles. It was a mega hit (even though the sauce burned a bit on the bottom of the pot thanks to a thin pot and an old stove).
Over the years the Wednesday lunch went through some change ups, including one year when I painstakingly strung slices of hot dog onto raw spaghetti and boiled it like that before adding the sauce and baking it. Another year saw slices of pepperoni thrown in one of the pans.
I knew it was popular; however, I didn’t know to what extent until a couple of Moms came up and told me their sons thought I made better mac and cheese than they did! Oops! LOL!
The dish became known as “Explosion Mac and Cheese” playing on both the conference name and the fact that the cubes of cheese melted into little explosions of flavour. It even made the church cookbook (slightly modified from its original “serves 30+”).
While I eventually handed over the organizing duties of the meals, I only missed making the Wednesday lunch twice – once for health reasons and the other because I was cooking for another group of young people at a summer camp!
When our current youth pastor picked the trays up this morning, I had to smile. He was one of those original youth I fed that first year. And here he is leading the next generation of young people. I couldn’t be more proud of the Godly man he has become.
I let him know that this was my last year as I wanted to go out on a positive note and not because my health stopped me. I also mentioned I hardly know any of the youth anymore, and he agreed it is a whole new group. He chuckled at the fact that a few of them looked at the menu and said, “Mac and Cheese? You mean like Kraft Dinner?” Our pastor and other “veterans” of the youth group told them “You have no idea!”
Cooking has always been one of my passions so if all I am remembered for is my mac and cheese I could die happy.