Between the battle that is Christmas and the post-Christmas battle that is weight loss, there is a brief day or two to simply exhale, and enjoy a bit of comfort. That is the moment for Instant Pot Mac & Cheese!
Post-merriment exhaustion is all around us! The last gift has been greeted with squeals of delight – even though if they’d wanted bath salts – or scarves or socks – they probably already have a ready supply. The last friend is feted as though you don’t actually see each other on a regular basis. The last child is packed into the car seat, eyes all a-glow, and waved goodbye. The last glass is washed. The last nit is picked.
It’s over. At last!
The lingering question remains. What were we thinking?
The answer is perhaps that we’ve been trying to live in the wrong generation.
So many of the expectations with which we burden ourselves were born in those “Madmen” post-war years. Oh so much has been said of the admen, the “mad men” but what of the “mad women”? Who were they and why are they still causing us such self-flagellation?
They were women who stayed at home to run the household and mind the children. That was nothing new. What was new, however, was appliances. Appliances landed in the lives of those homemakers with much the same impact as technology has landed in our lives today. Ranges replaced wood stoves, washing machines and dryers replaced that contraption with those rollers on top. And the clothes line. The Mixmaster was a thing shortly followed by the blender/food processor, crock pot and the microwave. Clothing became inexpensive and accessible enough that sewing wasn’t a requisite skill. Women were thrilled, freed suddenly of all the onerous drudgery that once filled their days. And they were, famously, bored.
Oh there was volunteer work at the church and the book club and bridge to be sure. But the days were suddenly long and empty. What’s to do?
Let’s make a madhouse of Christmas! We can buy gifts, large and small, and wrap them imaginatively! We can craft up some stockings and stuff them! Let’s have a Christmas party! And go to everyone else’s! Bearing thoughtful gifts! Let’s make a thing of the tree and decorate the house stem to stern, inside and out! Let’s send Christmas cards to everyone we’ve ever met and hang those we receive in some clever way so visitors can see how popular we are! Cookies! We must bake cookies! And bars! And tarts! They must be artsy! Let’s invite the whole fell swoop for a Christmas dinner they’ll never forget! Plum pudding brought flaming to the table! Huzzah! Let’s magically produce an interesting ‘morning after’ breakfast that will keep them smiling all the way home! Let’s do it all! With panache!
And thus the mythical, magical flurry that is Christmas was born.
And then the world shifted. Women were suddenly allowed out of the house, into the working world! Into college and university! So liberating. Followed shortly thereafter by the expectation that they would look after the home and the children while working full-time. They had appliances, after all. Their days, by then, were chuck-a-block filled to the brim. Liberation, it seems, was a blessing well mixed.
And then came Christmas. And the expectation to “Do it all”. They could somehow swing the “magic of Christmas” like grandma did with her long, empty days, only with days already bursting at the seams. Yet we move heaven and earth to get it all done.
We do put these expectations on ourselves. We don’t like to scale it back. We are afraid of disappointing the kids with their seemingly endless appetite for receiving gifts, or our friends who might call us grinchy if we say, ‘let’s just not do the gift thing any more,’ or our mother-in-law who, in our minds at least, is bean counting every fa-la-la.
Times are a-changin’. E-mails are replacing thank you notes and Christmas cards, men are stepping up to do their part even though they don’t quite grasp the whole concept. They know that they’ll stay out of the doghouse by felling a tree, festooning the house with lights, carving the bird and presenting Mother with something sparkly under the tree. It’s getting better. But we’re not there yet.
Before Christmas is even over, the marketers are hard at it convincing us that, though the war is over, you are now fat and should get to the gym or subscribe to a magical diet program so you can meet the next round of expectations.
But in that sliver of time between battles, hanging precariously between madwoman and wonder woman, give yourself a break!
Instant Pot Mac and Cheese Recipe
THE BEST INSTANT POT MAC AND CHEESE from platingsandpairings.com
Read instructions carefully as I didn’t the first go round.
1 pound macaroni
4 cups water
2 teaspoons prepared yellow mustard
1 teaspoon salt
12 ounce can evaporated milk
8 ounces medium cheddar cheese grated
¾ cup parmesan cheese grated
2 Tablespoons butter
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste
Mix the macaroni, water, mustard, and salt in your Instant Pot. Close and lock the lid of the Instant Pot. Press “Manual” and adjust the timer to 4 minutes (or half the time on the macaroni cooking directions). Check that the cooking pressure is on “high” and that the release valve is set to “Sealing”.
When time is up, open the Instant Pot using “Quick Pressure Release”. Stir the pasta to break it up. Add the evaporated milk, cheese, butter and nutmeg; stir until completely incorporated the and cheese has melted and coated the pasta.
Wine Pairings for Macaroni and Cheese (incredibly, yet yay):
“Try a Sauvignon Blanc. Its tart flavour balances out the salty cheese and its bright acidity refreshes your palate. Looking for red wine to pair with mac and cheese? Try a Red Blend. Look for a light-bodied red wine. They won’t overpower this dish, and their ripe, juicy flavours, make a great match for this rich, cheesy dish”
Go ahead. You deserve it! Go on!