So here goes, my first Five Pound recipe. I post this recipe with mild trepidation. See, for Bahamians, Macaroni and Cheese is somewhat sacred. An eatery isn’t serious if there’s no macaroni on the menu. Every steak-out, cook-out, potluck, and “proper” buffet has a pan of macaroni, heavy with cheddar and deep seasoned with onion, sweet pepper and hot pepper, with more cheese on top for good measure. Because cheddar isn’t rich enough on its own, there is usually cream, an egg or two, and perhaps a slab of butter baked in there, too. Unlike Kraft (a dirty word), Bahamian Macaroni is sliced, not slopped onto the plate.
And here, it’s been veganized. With vegan mozzarella. I can hear the shrieks of horror.
In a small place, there’ can be a strong undercurrent of identity searching and an ongoing earnest searching out of national authenticity. Every year brings a smattering of songs declaring some version of “I’s a Bahamian!” Politicians try to appear earthy and approachable through shuffles and slang they clearly don’t use in everyday chitchat. Being from a small country, perhaps you have to be vocal about your identity, lest you be swallowed up by gigantic America to the north, or larger, more populace, and better known Jamaica to the south. And yes, I’ve had countless ignant folk say things like “Oh, the Bahamas is part of America, isn’t it?” or “When do you go back home to Jamaica?”
At the same time, this quest for identity–Real Bahamian Music, Real Bahamian Food–can be exhaustingly narrowing. I’ve had people question my cultural authenticity for eating foods other than eternal peas n rice, potato salad, curry chicken, fry fish, barbecue chicken, steam fish, and yes, of course, macaroni. I’ve had school acquaintances scoff at the “weird” meals we had for dinner–such cutting-edge dishes as lasagna and fettuccine. My first boyfriend was deeply offended when the first dinner I made featured falafel. Our household has been dubbed weird for having family dinner together every night. Once, I disappointed a Canadian date by failing to have a clearly distinguishable accent.
Fortified by judgment, I dare to present this vegan macaroni, which I’m calling Bahamian by virtue of it being rich, being baked, being reminiscent of the macaroni I remember eating, and by virtue of it being adapted by me, a Bahamian. The sauce recipe is not my sauce, but one from Soul Vegetarian Restaurant in Atlanta, presented by Chef Zach Corban Israel in the Youtube video below, ranked one of the best macaroni and cheeses in Atlanta. Yup, I believe it. I’ve not been to Atlanta yet, but when I do, I might have to camp out on this restaurant’s doorstep. I used more macaroni and less sauce, proportionately, for a firmer end product, baked it at a higher temperature. I scaled the original sauce recipe back to a less restaurant-sized portion, but truly love it: it’s richer (read: fattier) than any other vegan cheese sauce I’ve encountered, which probably accounts for its flavour. It is creamy, relatively inexpensive, and quick; the whole recipe can be done in under 40 minutes.
Vegan Macaroni & Cheese
1 Tbsp mustard
3 garlic cloves
1 1/3 cup soymilk
1/2 cup oil (I used sunflower)
2/3 cup nutritional yeast
2/3 tsp paprika
2 cups whole wheat macaroni, uncooked
1 cup Daiya vegan shreds (I used mozzarella this time; cheddar is great too!)
Thyme, salt, and black pepper, to taste
Optional: 1-2 tbsp whole wheat flour
1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
2. Cook macaroni 8-10 minutes, or according to package instructions.
3. Combine remaining ingredients except Daiya shredsin blender or food processor, and combine until smooth.
4. When macaroni is cooked, lightly oil a casserole dish (I used a 9″ glass Pyrex), add macaroni, pour sauce over, add 1/2 cup of the Daiya, and stir until combined well. If the mixture looks too liquidy, add 1-2 tbsp flour.
5. Season to taste with thyme, salt, and black pepper. Sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup Daiya over the top.
6. Bake 25 minutes, or until lightly browned, and serve.