Mac and Cheese Salad

When I first saw macaroni and cheese salad, I thought how odd. Either mac and cheese or pasta salad, but both in one? Eventually, I tried it. I changed my mind on that distinction between food types.

How to make Mac and Cheese Salad

  • 1½ cup dry macaroni (I used cavatappi but elbow or any kind is fine) cooked in salted water. Drain, rinse with cold water, drain and put in refrigerator.
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped fine
  • 4 tbsp. finely chopped onion

In a separate bowl, mix together well:

  • 4 tbsp. Kraft Dinner powder (from Bulk Barn, or Amazon below)
  • 3 tbsp. mayonnaise
  • 3 tbsp. ranch dressing (or plain yogurt or sour cream)
  • 1½ tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1½ tbsp. oil and vinegar dressing

Add this sauce to the cold macaroni along with the celery and onions. Salt and pepper to taste. Mix well. Put paprika or parsley or whatever you like on top. Chill, and you’re good to go.

Even after finding I liked it, how macaroni and cheese salad was made remained for me a secret kept by deli counters and take-out restaurants. But then I thought it can’t be that hard to make. Indeed it’s not. I experimented rather than google. Now, having googled, I found something I want to try: simply add mayonnaise, onion etc. to leftover macaroni and cheese. I’d wondered if that was doable but thought no, can’t be. Evidently, you can.

Having had to think about mac and cheese salad in order to first eat it, then make it, I’ve realized something about its appeal. It works well at either end of the season for cold foods. In early fall, it tastes like summer but with the warmth of macaroni and cheese that you love in winter. In the spring, it’s got the creamy cheesy warmth but with a chilled tang that says summer is right around the corner.

Summertime

If you’d asked me two weeks ago who wrote the song Summertime, I’d have said the Gershwins. Music by George, lyrics by Ira. And I’d have been wrong. Well, half wrong.

I noticed the credits in my music book. Music George Gershwin. Lyrics DuBose Heyward. Who’s he? Google led me to storytelling, music and South Carolina.

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DuBose Heyward

Edwin DuBose Heyward (1885-1940) was a white South Carolinian. His parents were Edwin Watkins Heyward and Jane Screven DuBose. His father died in an accident at a rice mill when DuBose was two years old.

His mother supported two children by working as a seamstress but her love was stories and words. She wrote poetry and sought out old stories and folklore of the Carolinas.

Jane passed on her love of stories, and the importance of their context, to her son. He too wrote poetry and stories, especially during his late teens when he was confined to his bed with polio, then typhoid fever and pleurisy.

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However, growing up poor, while having a genteel planter family history, taught DuBose the value of economic security. He became an insurance agent.

But he married a playwright, Dorothy Kuhns. Like his mother, Dorothy encouraged his love of words and stories. So he kept on writing.

Porgy to Porgy and Bess

His novel Porgy was published in 1925. It became a best seller and he and his wife turned it into a play. George Gershwin read the novel in 1926, and imagined it in music. So he wrote to Heyward and asked he could turn it into an opera. Heyward said yes, but.

You have to come to South Carolina, Heyward said. You have to know where the stories come from. Gershwin made a couple of brief visits in late 1933 and early 1934. Back in New York, he wrote the music for Summertime, with Heyward’s lyrics.

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Gershwin self-portrait, Théâtre du Capitole de Toulouse, photo André Cros 1967

But for the rest of it, more time in South Carolina was needed. So Gershwin moved into a rented cottage on Folly Island. With Heyward, he got to the work of getting to know the music. Gershwin became an observer of, and participant in, Gullah music.

He stayed in South Carolina for several months and wrote the music for Porgy and Bess. He returned to New York and Heyward came with him. Heyward, with some input from Ira Gershwin, wrote the libretto and lyrics.

The opera, produced in 1935, received mixed reviews. David Zax (2010) says it was seen by those wanting classic opera as being too much Broadway spectacular, and by those wanting Broadway spectacular as being too much classic opera. George Gershwin considered it his best writing ever. But he didn’t live long enough to see many others agree. He died in July 1937. Since then, it has become a classic as both classic opera and Broadway spectacular.

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Todd Duncan as Porgy, Anne Brown as Bess (YouTube Summertime by Anne Brown)

Summertime, on its own, has become a classic. It has been covered more than any other song ever by singers of all genres. It’s a lullaby, so it’s short and simple. But its simplicity allows – even encourages – vocal and instrumental improvisation. Google it and just randomly play some of the many versions you will find. Below are two that I think perfectly show the beauty of this song: Dame Kiri Te Kanawa and Sam Cooke.

After Summertime

the country bunny 75th anniversary ed.

DuBose Heyward wrote many more books. Few are known today, but a children’s book ought to be. His mother’s influence again in The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes (1939). It is a story she told him when he was a child about how a girl rabbit wins a very important bunny contest. (Tap on the title for Amazon.)

Heyward died of a heart attack in June 1940, just three years after George Gershwin’s death. His wife Dorothy died in 1961. They had a daughter, Jenifer, who was a sculptor, actress and dancer.

Good picks of the best versions of Summertime are at English National Opera and at 50Thirdand3rd.

“Summertime for George Gershwin” by David Zax is in Smithsonian Magazine Aug. 8, 2010.