I have a loving, giving, low-maintenance husband. He would literally do anything for me…really…ANYTHING! He only had one request when I asked him what he expected of me in marriage. He only expected me to cook. He loves to eat good home-cooking. There was only one other thing attached to that request. He also needed me to be able to cook his favorite dish…macaroni and cheese. Not just any ole’ Mac & Cheese. Baked Mac & Cheese done southern style; with lots of cheese, milk and…you know what I’m talking about…soul food! Well this should have been easy for me. After all, my grandmother, Ms. Mae, is the queen of soul food. She is a caterer. Ask anyone in South Jersey about Ms. Mae and they will tell you she makes the best baked chicken, roast beef with gravy, green beans, candied yams, and of course her coveted Mac & Cheese! Not only had I watched her cook all of my life, but I had to help her prepare for all kinds of banquets. I came into our marriage with my mind, body, soul, and Ms. Mae’s secret recipes!
Anyway, once we were married and it was time for me to prepare my first real meal. I went for the gold and put Mac & Cheese on the menu! I had all of the ingredients (which shall remain nameless because I have been sworn to secrecy) in the pan and in the oven. What came out of the oven was NOT Ms. Mae’s Mac & Cheese. To this day I don’t know where I went wrong! I prepared it the way I had seen it done for years. My husband ate it anyway and never complained. I knew better! It wasn’t right! I had a new mission to complete. I set out to make the best Mac & Cheese he had ever eaten! When the next Sunday came around I was ready! I had conference calls with my grandmother all week. I purchased the brands she recommended, and prepared another batch. 40 minutes later, Mac & Cheese was on the table. It was ok, but it wasn’t Ms. Mae’s Mac & Cheese. Once again my husband ate it. Still I knew better. I called my grandmother to tell her the news and she said you probably didn’t put enough love in it. That is when I had an epiphany! It wasn’t lack of love, attention to detail, or even the brands I used. It was me…that is what was missing! I had been trying to make Ms. Mae’s Mac & Cheese. Other family members have tried for years to make it and never succeeded. Was it her love, ingredients, or her experienced hands? I am not sure.
So, another Sunday was approaching and I was determined to make the best Mac & Cheese my husband had ever eaten! I went out and purchased some the things my grandmother told me to use and added a few things of my own. I put the ingredients in the pan and into the oven. What came out was Nakeia’s Mac & Cheese. Of course my husband ate it and this time he spoke! He said now that’s some gooood Mac & Cheese!
Isn’t it just like life to teach us a lesson through Mac & Cheese? Too often we try to do things the way someone else has done it. It seems reasonable. Why reinvent the wheel…right? Well I say this. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel…discover new ways to maximize its capacity. To compare yourself to someone else is to limit yourself to their abilities. I want you to develop your stride…that is to always advance with your maximum competence. You will never realize your strengths if you rely on the strengths of someone else. My Mac & Cheese is not Ms. Mae’s. I am ok with that. Now, when ever there is a family dinner and my grandmother can not make her Mac & Cheese, Nakeia’s Mac & Cheese is in high demand!