How to make macaroni and cheese from 1784 recipe

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Lordy, I love me some Jas. Townsend and Sons (aka Townsend’s). Their catalog is a delight. And their youtube channel is a work of high art.



The YT channel is amazing, the videos they’re putting out are labors of love and i’m thankful it’s not become a TV show because it being online makes it really approachable and accessible. The community around the channel is also really great which is refreshing from the usual cesspit that is Youtube.


Paging @Jayuhmay!


The Q and A sessions with John are often unexpectedly touching, esp. with respect to the thanks he gives to the community and sometimes the challenge of dealing with the web as a public space.


My vague recollection of a recipe for 18th (or earlier?) century grilled cheese “sandwiches”; read about it in parochial school:

  1. Cut the end off a loaf of bread and ‘discard’ the cut piece.
  2. Bring the loaf (in one hand) and a big hunk of cheese (in the other hand) to your open flame (be it hearth or open fire).
  3. Bring the cheese near enough to the flame to melt the cheese, allowing it to generously drip onto the sliced-open end of the loaf.
  4. Slice off the cheesed-on piece and serve.
  5. Repeat steps 2 thru 4.

That sounds a lot like how one makes raclette.


Just wanted to share - the other day I got a serious craving for basic (and I do mean basic) comfort food, so whipped up Ye Olde Blue Boxe (of Kraft mac and cheese.) On a whim, I shook in a bit of Coleman’s mustard and a bit of curry powder. (I didn’t measure, but say 1/2 teaspoon of each.)

Dang, it was good. Not exactly a lifehack, but close.


Raclette. I gotta google that!


If you’re visiting Philly - there’s City Tavern

City Tavern’s primary mission is to interpret and deliver the culinary experience inspired by the customs and foods of 18th century Colonial America. Should you have any culinary requests, please do not hesitate to ask any member of our staff. City Tavern bakes a variety of breads and pastries daily that may include such unique offerings as Sally Lunn, Anadama loaves or sweet potato biscuits – Thomas Jefferson’s favorite! Our baked goods are available for purchase.

Walter Staib, Restaurateur


Ah yiss Townends. I love their videos. <3


You would think they would have know about how to make a bechamel/de mornay sauce (what modern mac n cheese is based off), they were both written about by the late 1600’s in France (though generally it is believed the idea came from Italy with the court of Catherine de’ Medici back in 1533).


My mom makes an amazing Mac and Cheese with shells and real cheese and crushed crackers to add some texture and consistency.

Also, fun fact, “macaroni” used to mean cool or hip. Hence it’s use in Yankee Doodle (which started out as a British song to insult the colonies, and revised by the colonist as a rally song.) Macaroni and Cheese was the cool new dish back then.

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I’m hearing a dinner invite…


I was amazed to find out the recipe for macaroni and cheese is incredibly old in England. It dates back (at least) to the 14th century, in The Forme of Cury, which has a recipe for macrows, also known as maccherone; it’s pretty crude and minimal, though (and more a generic pasta and cheese):

Take and make a thynne foyle of dowh. and kerve it on peces, and cast
hem on boillyng water & seeþ it wele. take chese and grate it and
butter cast bynethen and above as losyns. and serue forth.

So it’s actually perfectly legit to have a situation where Chad and Tiffany (short for Theophania) sit around eating macaroni and cheese in the Middle Ages, even.

They’re essentially doing a lazy bechamel, though - a ball of butter coated in flour. Granted, it’s being added at the wrong time, but they weren’t refined cooks, and the simplified pasta/butter/cheese version was well established in English cooking, so this was sort of a half-assed hybrid.

Well, it may have had a bit of a revival at the time, but it’s a synecdochic reference to Italy being the style capital.


Guess that Townsends has a new subscriber!

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I’ve tried the Townsend fried chicken recipe a few months back, It turned out very tasty. I still regret frying it indoors since it took a few days for the oil smell to leave my kitchen.

Pro-tip when you’re frying something in oil indoors. Put on a pot of water to a boil, throw in a couple of sticks of cinnamon and then lower to a simmer. The cinnamon aroma works decently at masking the oil smell, you can turn up the heat or add water in the pot a tad as needed while cooking. Once cooking is done if there’s still a smell you just continue to simmer the cinnamon so it can keep working its magic.

The cinnamon liquid can be saved and reused if you so desire. Learned this from my mom and tried it out at a friend’s house and worked like a charm.


I pity those who know mac and cheese only through powdered cheese packets. Mac and cheese is very simple to make with real cheese:

Add a bit of milk and flour to a pan**, heat to a simmer to make a little bit of thin gravy. Remove from heat, wait half a minute. Add shredded cheese. Stir until you have a cheese sauce. Add cooked noodles. Devour.

** Optionally cook mushrooms, meat, whatever other things you want in there besides noodles and cheese, then add flour/water and make the gravy.

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