You may not realize this, but Macaroni and Cheese was NOT invented by Kraft and the original cheese was not a chalky cheese product. The origins of the classic dish, loved by kids and adults alike, date back to fourteen century England. According to Wikipedia, "It was made with fresh, hand-cut pasta which was sandwiched between a mixture of melted butter and cheese." The Italians prepared a similar dish with fresh parmesan cheese, of course. It wasn't until the late 1700's that it would make its debut in the US, when Thomas Jefferson, fresh off his writing of the Declaration of Independence and newly minted President, brought back a recipe for pasta from a trip to Paris and had his chef (and slave) whip up a baked cheesy macaroni pie.
These days, you can find Mac and Cheese in the box, in a can, in the freezer section, on pretty much every restaurant's kids menu, and even on many high end restaurants' menus, topped with everything from pulled pork to pepperoni to lobster. Many would say Mac and Cheese are best friends. My kids certainly love them together. In fact, if it weren't for Mac and Cheese, my youngest might starve to death. Heck, you can even find the two hanging together on kids' clothing. Check out this shirt sold by my wife's clothing company, Comfy Home Creations.
But I recently got to thinking, who's the real star here? After all, when it comes to superhero duos, there's usually the main character and a sidekick. So who's the superhero, Mac or Cheese? If Mac and Cheese came to blows, which one would be left standing and which one would be humiliated into retirement?
Let's have a look at the tale of the tape:
Mac's age is shrouded in mystery and suspense but it is widely believed that it is thousands of years old and originated in China. Cheese's birth isn't any clearer, believed to predate recorded history. The only thing clear to say is that these two are beyond ancient.
Edge: Neither (when you're that old and no one really knows where you came from, it's amazing you're still standing).
On its own, Mac has a nice, clean, and basically odorless smell. Cheese on the other hand can get really funky. No underarm deodorant on this planet is getting Cheese into the club tonight.
Edge: Mac (unless you're into stank, in which case, Cheese gets the edge).
Much like was the case with smell, on its own, Mac doesn't taste like much. And it doesn't really matter what size or shape Mac takes, it's pretty much the status quo. It really needs some friends to bring it to life. But once those friends arrive, it's party time. As for Cheese, it's got it going on from the start. Hundreds, if not thousands or varieties, ranging from super mild to super rotten. And while it can be paired with so many different friends for fabulous, cheesy dishes, it can stand alone just fine.
Edge: Cheese (by a gigantic wheel of Parmesan)
According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the largest cheese sculpture ever carved was of a cheeseburger in California in 2015, weighing in at 1,524 pounds. Guinness reports the longest strand of pasta ever made was in Tokyo, Japan in 2010 and measured 12,388 feet, 5 inches.
Edge: Mac (by about 2 miles - that strand could have wrapped itself around that block of cheese a thousand times and choked it into submission)
When it comes to its appearance in ethnic dishes from around the globe, both Mac and Cheese have a long reach. In a CNN Travel article from 2018 which claims to have found the 50 most delicious foods ever created, Mac was found four times and Cheese five times. Cheese took the highest spot at #2 (Neapolitan pizza from Italy) compared to #7 (Penang Assam Laksa from Malaysia) while Mac was found in destinations that were the furthest apart, 10,980 miles between Vietnam and Venezuela.
Edge: Mac (by an angel hair noodle)
Inside a boxing ring, there'd be no one to help Mac and Cheese fight this battle. But get out into the streets and their best known associates are sure to have their backs. While Mac's turning to soups and sauces, Cheese has Pizza, Crackers and Wine to mix it up.
Edge: Cheese (by a case of red zinfandel)
In a survey of top 100 foods, mac and cheese shows up together at #17. You'll find cheese five more times in the top 20 including the top spot: #1 (pizza), #8 (cheesecake), #11 (cheeseburgers), #12 (tacos), #13 (straight up cheese) and #20 (grilled cheese). Mac on the other hand shows up just one more time at #10 (spaghetti). It's worth noting, Mac's cousin, the lasagna sheet, is found stabbing Mac in the back at #22 when it gets together with parmesan, mozzarella and ricotta cheese to make a mean lasagna.
Edge: Cheese (by a heaping pile of shredded cheddar)
The verdict? It's a tough one because I grew up eating Mac every night, but the tape doesn't lie.
It's stronger, more versatile, doesn't need friends to taste great and has more worldwide appeal. So what does that mean for our friend Mac? Well, nothing as long as these long time friends continue to play nice and make great food together. And with kids and adults alike seemingly obsessed with this couple as much as they were with Ben and Jennifer, Brad and Angelina, and Tom and Katie, I'm sure there's nothing to worry about.
So which would you take if you could only take one? Comment now with "Mac" or "Cheese" to weigh in!
UPDATE: The results are in. In a not-so-close battle on Facebook, Cheese scored a major knockout of Mac in about 6 seconds flat. Final vote: Cheese 12, Mac 0. What a beatdown.