This January I turned 24 years old.
Somewhere, during these 24 years, I managed to avoid trying Original Kraft Dinner. My mother never brought it home growing up. She wasn’t a health nut either. We had Twinkies in the house when I was a kid. But that little blue box of Kraft Dinner was always absent from the pantry. When she took me shopping, I didn’t ever dare to look in its direction at the grocery store. But sometimes, when my mother meandered into the cleaning aisle to grab paper towels or air fresher, I would sneak into the pasta aisle, pick up a box of Kraft Dinner, shake it, and imagine exactly what this fast-food Canadiana staple tasted like.
After having coffee with a close friend today, the subject of Kraft Dinner came up. I explained to her the first and only time I tried a form of Kraft Dinner was when I started living on my own. (Side note – I once used white cheddar KD to craft a recipe for a campus newspaper in university – but never actually tried the final product. My father was the designated taster) Fast forward to sometime early last year. I purchased a fancy baked KD gratin kit from a supermarket in Michigan, where my uncle lives, simply for the fact I had never seen a product like that in Canada before. It just seemed strange; something fun to keep in the pantry as a reminder of how bizzare American food culture can be. One day I took a leap of faith and made it at home according to package direction. There was the mixing the pasta with the cheese packet, pouring the whole mess into a dish, adding the contents of the bread crumb packet, and broiling the top in the oven.
It tasted like shit.
My friend implored me to go home straight after our coffee and prepare a package of Original Kraft Dinner, according to the package directions. I opted for the stove top method – keeping it as classic as could be. I ignored the package direction to boil the pasta in 6 cups of unsalted water for 7-8 minutes. 4-5 minutes in 3 cups of salted water brought the pasta to a more al dente state. After draining the short, miserably-shaped noodles, my precisely measured 3 tbsp. of salted butter and 1/4 cup of whole milk were tossed in the pot along with the entire packet of glowing orange “cheese” powder.
This all seemed so wrong. But I trooped on. Mixing everything together was simple enough, but the pasta seemed to be soaking in some bizarrely wet cheese substance. Shiny, neon-y, and a slightly terrifying.
I approached my first bite with trepidation. And I was right to do so. Like the baked version, this stuff also tasted like shit. I’m also fairly positive that I will wake up tomorrow morning with a third eye, from some sort of food colouring poisoning.
The next bite went down with a splash of Frank’s Red Hot Sauce, and its vinegary/pepper tang helped mask the salty cheese taste.
The last bite, featured a drizzle of good ol’ fashioned Heinz Tomato Ketchup. I hear that’s what all the cool kids do. But that was not a good idea, either. In another bizzare twist, the KD seemed to taste better the closer it came to coagulation at room temperature. I also heard through the grapevine that some people put cut up hot dogs in their Kraft Dinner, but that just sounded like absolute insanity. Finally, in quite possibly the most gauche of culinary suggestions, a family friend (who will remain unnamed) suggested that I add cut up spam pieces into the KD, adding it would taste “like money.”
So there you have it, everyone. At 24 years old I have officially tried Original Kraft Dinner. And it is absolutely disgusting. Or as my coffee friend so bluntly put it, “Hmm, well then I guess you are just weird. Everyone loves KD.”
FYI – for the same price (if not less) you can make a beautiful pasta dish with olive oil, spaghettini, hot pepper flakes, fresh garlic, bread crumbs and some freshly chopped flat-leaf parsley. Try this recipe from David Rocco. It’s excellent stuff.
And please, for the sweet love of God, don’t buy Kraft Dinner. Even if they do tell you it’s healthier with ground cauliflower in it. Riiiiighhhht……