I thought it would be appropriate to start the blog with a traditional comfort food.  Tradition supplies the elegance, comfort makes it taste like home.

Ruben is one of those people to whom every day is alike, but I grew up eating turkey at Thanksgiving and ham at Christmas and baked eggs at New Years and hamburgers with potato salad on Memorial Day and so on, traditions my dad inherited from his parents.  The inevitable accompaniment to all these meals at Grandma’s house was ‘spaghetti cheese.’  I asked for her recipe several years ago, and it is typical of all the recipes I have ever received from women who really know how to cook.  The amounts don’t mean anything.  It says ’32 oz of spaghetti’ but that was just something she scrawled under the intense pressure of trying to estimate how many handfuls of spaghetti she usually throws in.  And her estimate in this case was grossly wrong.  After making the spaghetti cheese several times I’ve come to an approximation of her actual amounts, but I post this recipe with the proviso that anyone who attempts to use it is not uncomfortable with the measurement system of ‘adding water up to the knuckle of middle finger’.  It isn’t the kind of recipe we’re used to: it relies far more on doing things ‘to taste’, but like Martin Luther and the papal bull — throwing the measurements in the fire doesn’t mean abandoning the recipe completely.  It means referring it to an older tradition that is more closely tied to the first principles of cooking — more or less of this or that ingredient in approximate proportion to a few dashes of something else that ultimately achieves ‘home cooked’ taste.

I made this recipe yesterday, altering all my grandma’s measurements and some ingredients, and achieved the high praise of a dish that tasted ‘just like grandma’s.’

(note: this is not a ‘health food’, except by way of being very rich in calcium and vitamin d.)

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ABOUT 16 oz of spaghetti, cooked and drained  (I think I actually used a little less)

1 can of carnation evaporated milk

Approximately, 1/2 stick of butter (I used maybe half a tablespoon less?)

16 or so ounces of cheese (I used 8 oz. Vermont style cheddar, about 1/3 as much monterrey jack & colby mix, and sharp cheddar layered over the top)

Salt, to taste (I used Morton’s Coarse Kosher Salt)

Paprika, sprinkled on top

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  After draining spaghetti noodles, add carnation milk to pan, approximately to the level of the noodles.  Add in butter, salt, and cheese cut into cubes.  Melt over medium heat, stirring the noodles and other ingredients cheese is melted into sauce.  Pour into appropriately sized casserole dish.  Cover with thick slices of cheese, sprinkle lightly with paprika, and bake until the cheese on top is melted.  Serve hot.  Serves at least 8.

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