Friday, April 17, 2009

Helios' Cheeseburger Mac and Cheese

"... Neither was any remedy able to be found, the cattle were already dead. The gods straightaway revealed portents to the men: the hides crawled, the meat mooed on the spits, both the roasted and the raw, just as in the voices of living cows. Then for six days, my faithful comrades feasted, destroying the best of the cattle of the sun" (Odyssey XII.392-98).

None of my mythology students ever seem to fully appreciate the sun cattle barbecue in the Odyssey when they first come across the scene. I wonder why. I always have to pause and pose the question, "How would you feel if the cheeseburger you were eating suddenly began to moo?"

I usually get blank stares and a few giggles.

I have always wanted to have a Homeric barbecue replete with five-year-old bulls, sloppy butchery and fat-burning... and especially, one with mooing burgers, so I decided to start with a pseudo-Homeric dinner. Baby steps.

I am a great admirer of cows. They are useful and yummy. Going without fresh milk for more than three hours gives me great anxiety. I obviously adore cheese, except when I bake it into pies. I love a good, rare steak and I also often wake up in the middle of the night craving country fried steak smothered in sausage gravy. But wouldn't it be kind of fun if just once in a while, my beloved food source acknowledged me?

Inspired by a super intense macaroni-and-cheese-fest with Rebecca, I was determined to make something -- perhaps not strictly ancient, I admit -- that involved both the cattle of the sun and some cheesy goodness. I became fixated upon and even obsessed with the idea of Helios' Cheeseburger Mac and Cheese. It would be dinner and a show!

To my great dismay, none of the nearby butchers carried any version of ground sun cow. I found holy cows -- kosher, halal and so on, but those would just not do.

But miraculously, Titan Foods does carry Helios' elbow pasta.

Perhaps not all was lost.

And so I set to work. I lightly sauteed my seasoned hamburger patties and broke them into little chunks. I boiled Helios' elbow pasta in salted water and mixed it with a cup each of cheddar, Monterey jack and milk. Then I sprinkled the top with a mixture of cheddar and breadcrumbs and baked the whole dish. I was, admittedly, a little apprehensive. What if I burn the crust? What if I lose my way home?

The results were meaty, gooey, crusty and absolutely divine, although sadly, silent.

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