Ask just about anyone to name a few of the childhood foods that they remember the most fondly, and Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, in its trademark blue box, will invariably come up. Cheesy, filling, and easy and fun to prepare, it’s one of those foods that almost everybody likes. We’ll bet, though, that however often you may have eaten it, there are some things you still don’t know about this classic standby.
James Lewis Kraft, the founder of Kraft Foods, didn’t invent macaroni and cheese, and didn’t even invent processed cheese, but he was the first to patent the process of emulsifying and powdering cheese in order to give it a much longer shelf life. One day, he encountered a salesman in St. Louis who was selling boxes of pasta with bags of grated cheese attached to it with a rubber band, and had one of those “light bulb” moments. In 1937, Kraft was the first to sell boxed macaroni and cheese, and it became an instant hit.
The reasons behind the blue box’s success are manifold. It was the height of the great depression and the product was inexpensive, and its shelf life of 10 months was certainly attractive in a time when not everyone had refrigerators. It was also a great way to feed the whole family something hearty and filling, and was meat-free in a time of rationing during World War II.
Today there are plenty of companies selling boxed macaroni and cheese. Over the years, more and more styles of mac and cheese were added to Kraft’s portfolio, and today there are “Deluxe” varieties with a pre-made cheese sauce in the box; larger-format “Homestyle” options that come with seasoned breadcrumbs to sprinkle on top; Easy Mac, which cooks quickly in a microwave (and has entered the pantheon of legendary dorm foods); and a foodservice version that’s delivered frozen and heated in the microwave.