Betty White wants to be my friend. She started contacting me a few weeks ago, and I was a bit surprised at first. After all, she’s so famous, so very HOT, why would she want to hang with me? I thought it was a mistake, but she seemed so determined. A postcard first, then letter, then email, then another email again. Her persistence seemed to grow as days fell from my calendar, and that mid-August Sunday grew perilously close. That should have been my first clue. But I ignored the clues. I naively believed how much she must really like me.
After all, we do have a few things in common. We’re both a bit ballsy, always tempered with sass, and have a fondness for vodka and very handsome men. Plus most of my friends just love her too. So as long as we both understand that either one would kneecap the other and scramble over the crumpled body to get at George Clooney, why not? Sure Betty, I’ll be your friend. Then she invited me to join a club. Her club….AARP.
I knew it was going to happen. I had been warned. Yet when that happy nonagenarian and her welcoming smile showed up in my inbox, happy wasn’t the feeling I felt. Because Betty knew that in less than a month I’d turn 50. FIFTY! I have no idea how it happened. I was comfortable in my 40s, my best decade yet. So the idea of leaving them to embark on 50 left me a bit unprepared. I’d have to get used to ticking off a new age-range box on those survey forms. I’d never be called “miss” again; it’s “ma’am” from here on. It just doesn't seem right. I don’t feel 50 (well, most parts don’t), my friends say I don’t look 50 (which is why they are my friends), but there it is, less than a month away, staring at me. Sure it’s just a number, I know that, but WHAT A NUMBER! Visions of early bird specials and sensible shoes whirl around my brain. Bedazzled polyester tracksuits, and helmet hair, and Geritol! O.K., perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself here, but this is a big step, and I can’t help but notice the scenes in my rearview outnumbering the scenes ahead.
Yet even so, I’ll quit my whining (for now). It’s unbecoming for a ‘ma’am,’ and Betty would disapprove. True, my youth has passed, but so have the baggage, anxiety and guilt trailing in its wake, and I see the wisdom of age dead ahead. I care less about the “every” things and more about the “right” things these days. And I am grateful for the life, the loves, the sorrows and the mistakes of the past. If wisdom is earned then I’ve worked my tail off the first 50, and can’t wait to put it to good use. And if my new friend Betty is any example, the future looks like a hell of a ride!
I mentioned a few weeks ago that I had spent the Fourth of July holiday in Virginia with some terrific guys (Beans & Queens ). A highlight of my trip was a great party for viewing fireworks and a wonderfully sinful mac & cheese made by our host Robert. When I asked for the recipe, he grabbed a homemade cookbook from his Granny Elsie, filled with all of his family favorites. I loved that he had a record of Elsie’s recipes — even more that he took the foundations from her and then tarted it up a bit. And it was quite a successful tarting, based upon the two helpings I had! But don’t worry, Robert is a doctor, so it has to be good for you, right?
So from one nonagenarian (and her grandson) to an almost quinquagenarian, here’s one phenomenal mac and cheese.
Granny Elsie’s Tarted Up Mac and Cheese
Makes enough for 10. Ingredient portions are fully adjustable to taste. Just use a whole lot of everything; you cannot have too much cheese.
- 2 pounds of elbow macaroni or other pasta of choice
- 2 sticks of lightly salted butter
- 1 quart heavy cream
- 32 oz shredded cheddar (I prefer medium)
- 16 oz ricotta
- 16 oz gruyere
- 16 oz lump crab meat
Cook pasta according to directions. Drain and rinse. In a 9 x 13 pan, combine pasta with softened butter, cheddar, ricotta and gruyere (set aside some cheddar and gruyere to top the dish). Gently fold in the lump crab meat. Pour in enough heavy cream to be level with your mixed ingredients. Top the mixture with generous portions of cheddar and gruyere. Bake in a 375-degree oven for 30 to 45 minutes. If desired, broil for a final five minutes to create a nicely browned top. Enjoy!