Love and Nostagia for the Cheaper Stuff

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Sometimes the best things in life are the cheap things.

Last night, after a long day at the office, and then coming home soaked in rain, I went through my cabinet and found a box of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese Dinner to eat. I normally cook from scratch, but there’s something comforting about this particular meal—it’s something my dad would make after a long day at the shop when he was too tired to fix anything up for dinner (my father was the cook in my family); it’s the thing you microwaved in your dorm’s kitchen because of the pervasiveness of Easy Mac (the microwavable version) in college. It was also $1, on sale at the drugstore. I had passed it on my way to pick up some prescriptions and felt nostalgic for it.

I feel that kind of nostalgia about other things than pasta with cheese powder, of course. My favorite thing to make on weekend mornings is “eggs in a basket,” which is essentially just a piece of bread with an egg in it cooked in a pan with butter. I eat it and remember the weekends when I was a kid when I’d eat it with my brothers.

Here’s chef Roy Choi on instant ramen with an egg and American cheese on top, which I also ate as a kid:

“It’s our snack, it’s our peanut butter and jelly sandwich, it’s our bowl of cereal,” Mr. Choi said. “It’s something that has been a part of my life forever.”

And in GQ, David Chang praising cheap beer:

It pairs really well with food. All food. Think about how well champagne pairs with almost anything. Champagne is not a flavor bomb! It’s bubbly and has a little hint of acid and tannin and is cool and crisp and refreshing. Cheap beer is, no joke, the champagne of beers. And cheap beer and spicy food go together like nothing else. Think about Natty Boh and Old Bay-smothered crabs. Or Asian lagers like Orion and Singha and Tiger, which are all perfect ways to wash down your mapo tofu.

And here’s Matt Buchanan, from our sister site, on his love for reheated spaghetti.

“In a microwave, with totally shitty Kraft parmesan on top,” he added. Because sometimes there’s just something about the cheaper stuff that we really love.

Photo: Stephen Boisvert

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