Finalist in the 2007 USC Ed Wood Film Festival.
Nicolas D. Frantela
Edited by Oscar Moralde
Written in the spring of 2007, recorded in 2011. Dedicated to anyone who has had to say goodbye to someone they care about. Guitar/Vocals/Songwriting by Nicolas D. Frantela. Recorded and Mixed by Keith Novak. Mastered by Brian Kerns.
“But making Kraft Mac and Cheese better is easy. Just add real cheese!” But that’s wrong. Anyone can add cheese to something but that doesn’t automatically make it better. Pour melted cheese over a brick and see if your friends will eat it. I’m trying to surprise people over here and the argument “JUST ADD MORE CHEESE” is insufficient for these purposes. Let’s learn something, eh? Let’s try to become better cooks if we can, all right? Besides, I don’t remember asking for your opinions.
Hmm? No, I’m not going to apologize for my tone. I’m unemployed with no money, and all I have left is my condescending tone. Asking for an apology isn’t very supportive of you. Can’t you at least just give me my condescending tone? LET ME LIVE, WHY WON’T YOU LET ME LIVE?!
To make Kraft better, you have to know how authentic macaroni and cheese is made. If you’ve ever tried to make mac n’ cheese by cooking noodles and then adding cheese, you know that there is something more to it. Mac n’ Cheese is not about noodles or cheese. The key ingredient is the sauce and it’s important to note that it’s not just milk and cheese, which would make a kind of . . . cheesy . . . milky . . . substance that, although may serve as a sauce, isn’t thick and creamy nor will it hold together very well. No, what you need is a roux. A roux is a mixture of equal parts flour and fat that is the base for most gravies and sauces. You can see how to make one here.
The roux is made with butter and flour, and then milk is added and then the mixture is reduced. Introduce noodles and cheese and thus Mac n’ Cheese is made! But Kraft and other boxed dinners take the roux out, relying on smaller amounts of milk, larger amounts of butter, and the liquid remaining in the pasta to create a pasty sauce. It’s good but not awesome.
I’m not going to have you make a roux. Instead, forget the 2% Milk the box suggests using and replace it with heavy whipping cream. The whipping cream is going to make a luxurious sauce and will add tons of flavor to the party. Is it fattier? Hell yes, but if someone ever asked me for healthy Mac n’ Cheese I’d alert the authorities because I’m pretty sure that’s illegal. Once your noodles are cooked and back in the pot, your butter melted in, go ahead and pour in about 1/3 cup of Heavy Whipping Cream along with the Packet of Cheese Powder. You’ll be amazed!
Now I know I said at the beginning that adding more cheese doesn’t make things better, but I was just saying that to make you focus on the sauce. The cream will make this taste much better, but real cheese will put it over the top. I suggest using about 4 oz of cheese as any more than that and the delicate union of noodles and cheese will topple. Make sure it’s shredded, make sure you only add in one handful at a time, stirring until completely incorporated, with the pot off the heat. Don’t do it slowly and you’ll have globs of melted cheese instead of a sauce, and do it on the heat and your cheese will get stringy and tough. Take your time with this, it makes a difference.
But Mac n’ Cheese is extremely customizable, and it’s simple to take it to the next level. Try different cheeses. Before adding your noodles back into the pot, melt the butter and sauté some garlic and Serrano chiles for an angry Mac n’ Cheese. Add some bacon and grilled chicken for glorious protein. Or put it in a baking dish, sprinkle on some bread crumbs, and broil until it comes out looking like this:
The basic dish has a total price of $3, assuming you already have butter. If you want real cheese, it gets bumped up to $6, but I only used half of the cheese and cream, so you could easily do this again and again if you bought everything in bulk.
We all have things
Things we can live with and things we can not
Habits that get under our skin and begin to rot
One friend I have hates the word “Caress”
Preferring to use words like brush, rub and stroke
But don’t caress any Styrofoam together
As in another of my friends ire it’ll invoke
Some folks hate posers, hipsters and such
Others detest gigolos and sluts
Some abhor the passive objectors
And others people with sticks up their butts
I myself, though hard I do try
Have a list of things that’ll make me decry
That you’re nothing but a beast, an animal, who I
Will slaughter and eat whole, perhaps with stir-fry
These things, in no particular order, are listed below:
Leaving the lights on, not locking the door
Burping with no “Excuse Me”, either after or before
Not using your turn signal when driving on the street
Refusing a cookie, but I think that one’s more about me
We made toilet lids for a reason, they’re not superfluous
And while you’re there, please please please please please flush
And most of all, the thing I can’t stand
Chewing with one’s mouth open, or slurping a drink
I lose my concentration, and I’m not able to rhyme
It doesn’t just bother me, it causes a headache, actual pain
And I don’t really know why
But I’ve sat down and pondered why I can’t let these go
These annoyances and grievances that bother me so
And I found these things, while a pain, were all harmless
And my aggravation was merely personal, and I must confess
That even I do things that cause others to turn
Like snoring, singing and the incense I burn
It dawns on me the two-way street I’m on
And wonder what I’m annoyed by might say about me
That we can’t be judged by the rude things we’ve done
But by how we’ve dealt with things to which we disagree
So keep quiet for once, and just silently suffer
While the inconveniences start to sting
And remind yourself it’s not so bad
Because, like, you know
We all have things
Based off of a conversation I overheard years ago.
Mike the Carpenter: Are you kidding me? Those people aren’t LA folks. You don’t know any true LA folks except me. Los Angeles is a hub for the interstate immigrant. All these people from across the country, across the fucking globe, come here in hopes for the quick bucks and star dreams. They come out here, trying to be LA, act LA, but they don’t know the first thing about what it’s like because the people they learn from aren’t people who are from here! They come out here and take our jobs, eat our food, live off our land, pack our freeways, drink our liquor and sleep with our women. They flick their cigarette butts out their windows and pee in our oceans. They act like dicks all in the name of “Pursuing the Dream” or some horseshit like that. They give us a bad name. And then after seven to fifteen years they realize they are nothing but a bunch of boring, country bumpkins and that they never stood a chance out here. Then they move back to Bumfuck, Iowa or wherever they come from, marry the fat girl across the street, poop out a few kids and then live out the rest of their lives waiting for their children to put them in a home. And what are we left with? Scars. They’ve turned a gorgeous land of boardwalks and orange groves into a dried husk. And they’ll tell their friends back home, “Oh yeah, I hate LA. It’s a shitty town covered in glitter and asphalt.” But they know it was because it was filled with people just like them, fucking parasites. And they’ll feel a pang of guilt, as they should! But it won’t last long, because they never took the time to love this city. Not like I do.
Phil the Student: So what is the real Los Angeles?
Mike the Carpenter: Not your Hollywood clubs or film openings, I can tell you that. Los Angeles is the palm tree silhouette at sunset. It’s sharing a cervesas with a few immigrants who don’t speak much English that you’ve hired to help you build a fence, and laughing together for no real reason. It’s culture reinvented. It’s the pull of the Pacific surf that carries away your troubles. It’s good, hard working people who come here not to live the dream but to simply live. It’s heat and sea breeze. It’s a blooming rose all year long. It’s all of that, piled under the trash left by tourists.
Phil the Student: Do you have to be born here to be true LA?
Mike the Carpenter: No, but the odds aren’t in their favor.
Phil the Student: So . . . which one am I?
Mike the Carpenter: (pauses, swings his beer, stares at Phil) How long have you been here?
Phil the Student: About five years.
Mike the Carpenter: Hmm. Give it three more, and then we’ll see.