Mac and Cheese (Please Read On …) – 183 of 365

Macaroni and Cheese

Yes, you are reading correctly, and no I am not trying to punk you by passing off this artificial American goodness as something Vietnamese.  I know what is dancing around your mind right now but please bear with me here.  This factory made nastiness is a symbol of how far my food tastes have evolved and how much I truly enjoy fresh Vietnamese cuisine.

So what does all this have to do with food in Vietnam?  Actually a lot.  When I was home in America this past fall,  I had filled one of my bags with the prefab foods I thought I might one day miss….macaroni and cheese, noodles with stroganoff sauce, and even a box of Taco Bell burrito shells and mix.   These items were hauled over to Vietnam before this food journey even became a concept and at a time when I nervously nipped around the more benign fringes of Vietnamese cuisine.  America’s finest has sat secreted away on the top shelf of a kitchen cabinet until their approaching expiration dates created a sense of urgency.

Nothing starting as a bright orange powder in a foil lined packet can possibly garner a good outcome.  As room temperature began to take its toll on the cooked macaroni aftermath, noodles began to congeal with their neighbors into one festering mass.   “Choi oi” this is crappiness to the highest degree.  I took a bite and the sharp tang of chemical zing screwing with my tastebuds got the better of me and even left a mean streak all the way down my throat.

Just three bites of this mac and cheese left me feeling like someone had shoved a lead gut bomb deep in me with a balled up fist punching it on through.  And to think only six months ago I was hesitant to even sample an innocuous bowl of pho out on the streets.  Well here I am now buying whole uncleaned squid of most dubious origin from a less than sanitary street market bucket and cooking it myself.  What a difference a few months make.

I am not sure exactly when my inhibitions and formerly sheltered tastes disappeared as this has been a gradual metamorphasis into the local cuisine.  Had you asked me six months ago if I would be eating crickets and fertile duck eggs, I’d have lobbed a few f bombs as I reached for a pouch of Knorr packaged noodles and sauce.

As for the other three boxes of Mac and Cheese?   They should be out to sea on a trash barge by the time my liver finishes processing their sodium carboxymethylcellulose, disodium phosphate, and yellow number 6.

Not too long ago I was wheeling a grocery cart with the ubiquitous wobbly wheel around a grocery store in America fully uninspired as to what’s for dinner.  Fast forward to Vietnam today, and now I wander around the city and street markets overly inspired and unable to pick just one item for dinner.   So yes, this non Vietnamese mac and cheese representing the world I have forever left behind is a fitting tribute to mark our halfway point.  Thankfully I will never be the same again once I return to the US

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Categories: Vietnamese Food

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