It’s well known among Americans that mac & cheese is one of the best comfort foods. You could probably go to almost every home in America and find a box of instant mac. Although a boxed version is good when you need a quick fix, nothing compares to homemade mac & cheese. This mac & cheese has smoked gouda and an aged cheddar cheese, crispy bacon, and green onion. The sauce is rich and creamy with penne pasta to absorb every cheesy bit.
What you’ll need:
sharp aged cheddar cheese
Salt & Pepper
Preheat the oven to 350F. Dice the bacon and add into a skillet at medium heat. Cook until fat is rendered and starting to brown. Remove the bacon from the pan and pat dry the bacon to remove any excess fat. Set aside. In a pot of boiling salted water, cook the dried penne to package directions. Thinly slice the green onions on a bias and set aside. Meanwhile, grate all your cheese, both the gouda and the sharp cheddar. Reserve about ½ cup of the shredded cheese, the rest goes into a bowl, set aside.
Using a large pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and dry mustard; whisk until it incorporates. This creates the thickening agent for the sauce, called a roux. Continually whisk the roux until it turns a sandy blonde color and has a nutty aroma. Keep whisking the roux and slowly add the half-and-half, then add the milk. Don’t stop whisking during this part! Turn the heat to a lower setting and whisk until the mixture starts to thicken.
In a bowl, whisk the egg and add about ¼ to ½ cup of the thickened sauce to the egg. Mix until it is all incorporated and add back into the pot. Don’t stop whisking or you will curdle the egg! Keep whisking until the sauce becomes smooth and uniform in color. Tempering an egg into the sauce creates structure to the sauce and a creamy texture.
Once thickened, add the shredded gouda, cheddar, and cajun seasoning. Keep whisking until the cheese has melted and the sauce is smooth. It should coat the back of a spoon.
When the sauce has come together, add the bacon, sliced green onion, and penne pasta. Mix it all together until everything is coated and evenly distributed. You can serve it like this, but I take it a step further.
Fill 5 oz ramekins to the top with the mac and cheese. Top each ramekin with the reserved shredded cheese. Place the ramekins onto a sheet tray and place the sheet tray into the oven. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until the cheese has melted and started to bubble. Wait 5 minutes to cool down and eat!
Smoked Gouda Mac and Cheese with Bacon & Green Onion
½ lb. thick cut bacon, uncooked
1 lb. dried penne
4 Tablespoons butter
¼ cup all-purpose flour
2 cups half-and-half
½ cup milk
2 teaspoons dry mustard
7 oz smoked gouda, grated with 1 oz reserved
8 oz sharp aged cheddar cheese, grated with 1 oz reserved
1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
½ cup thinly sliced green onion
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
- Preheat oven to 350F.
- Cook dried penne to package directions, set aside and keep warm.
- Dice the thick-cut bacon and add to a skillet over medium heat, cook until just browned. Remove the bacon from the pan and press with an absorbent towel to soak up excess fat. Set aside.
- In a large, deep pot, melt the butter and then add the flour and dry mustard. Whisk constantly. The butter/flour mix will bubble, do not let it burn. This will create a roux. Once the roux reaches a sandy blonde color and has a nutty aroma slowly add the half and half. Keep whisking until incorporated and then add the milk. Reduce the heat to a lower setting, and whisk often, until mixture has thickened.
- In a small bowl, beat the egg. Take about ¼ cup of the sauce and add to beaten egg, whisking constantly. Add the mix back into the sauce and whisk until the sauce is smooth and uniform in color.
- Add in the 7 oz of smoked gouda and 7 oz of the sharp aged cheddar cheese, making sure to have 1 oz of each cheese reserved. Constantly stir the sauce until the cheese is completely melted. Add in the Cajun seasoning and salt and pepper to your liking.
- Add the cooked penne pasta, bacon, and sliced green onion to the pot with the cheese sauce. Using a spatula or wooden spoon, mix everything together until everything is coated in sauce and the bacon and green onion are evenly distributed.
- In a 5 oz ramekin, fill it almost to the top with the mac and cheese. Top with a little of the reserved cheese. Place on a sheet tray and bake for 20-25 minutes. The cheese should be melted and slightly browned. Let cool 5 minutes before eating.
When a baby is born, there’s usually a doctor present to assign it as a boy or a girl. Often times, that assignment is made even before the baby’s birth using an ultrasound. From that point on, the baby’s life is curated and tailored to the male/female dichotomy. An infinite amount of potential reduced to gender roles and stereotypes.
We have really limited our thinking when it comes to gender and sex. We’ve restricted ourselves to a binary and relied on it to give us a foundation for how we expect others to act: you’re either a he or a she; ergo, you only like this or that. In relying on this binary — these limitations — we completely disregard an entire spectrum of genders and sexes, and subsequently disrespect and threaten anyone who doesn’t meet these expectations. For gender-normative people this rigid binary makes sense as we are privileged, and these concepts go unexamined when we express ourselves, shop for clothes, or even enter a restroom. But for gender-expansive people, this poses many social and personal problems, such as anxiety and risk of verbal and physical harassment.
The dangerous and hostile environments gender-expansive people live in are not a by-product of their status, it’s a product of gender-normative cultural behavior. Fortunately, new behavior can be taught and culture can change. Here are a few ways to destroy the binary and embrace the spectrum, creating a welcoming, respectful, and most of all, safe environment.
Pronouns are used in every single interaction. Most people usually decide on which to use based on the looks of a person, however, assuming pronouns affect gender-expansive people in a very damaging way. This is called misgendering. It’s always a good idea to ask people what their preferred pronouns are if you don’t already know them. It can be difficult to grasp at first, but it makes the encounter far more positive for both parties.
Another good idea is to adopt a gender neutral lexicon; instead of using the binary pronouns he/him and she/her, use the neutral and inclusive pronouns they/them when referring to strangers. Gender neutral language even applies to objects like toys, clothing and drinks. Refer to them as what they are — nerf gun, dress, martini on the rocks — instead of generalized gendered items such as “boy toys,” “girl clothes,” “a woman’s drink.”
Our mental process mostly goes unnoticed in day-to-day life. Experiences, like social interaction, flow so naturally we almost never really question the related thoughts and emotions we’re having. Unfortunately, because we’re not often critical of our thoughts, they are plagued with stereotypes and bias, and that has a strong effect on our behavior. Be aware and conscious of your actions and thoughts. Ask yourself: “Would I want to be asked this or that?” or “Is this a joke, or is this a stereotype reinforced by my comment?”
Always assume that a person knows which restroom they’re in. It may seem silly, but, in this situation simply not saying anything could remove their concern for their safety and alleviate that stress. We all go in to do the same things, but restrooms can be a dangerous place for gender-expansive people. They could be subject to verbal and physical assault or even arrested for trying to go pee.
We, as gender-normative people, don’t live with the daily risks of violence by simply being ourselves, but our gender-expansive friends and family do. Stand up against gender-expansive harassment. Correct people if they’ve misgendered someone else. Say something if someone is being hassled in a restroom, or on the street, or wherever. It’s important to show those who don’t care that you do care, because as more and more people ally themselves with those who are gender-expansive, the world becomes less and less dangerous.
Arundel, R. (2015, Feb 25) “Why is Gender Identity so Important?”
Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IFBU7h7fqLc&spfreload=10
Yee Won Chong
Chong, Y. W. (2012, Dec 13) “Beyond the Gender Binary”
Ramsey, F. (2014, Nov 22) “5 Tips For Being An Ally”
Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_dg86g-QlM0&spfreload=10
Trans Awareness Project
Marciano, O. “What’s the difference between transgender and transexual?”
Williams, C. “Insidious: Extreme Pressures Faced by Trans People” (2013, Jan 27)
Kat Blaque “Why Pronouns are important” (2015, Mar 28)
Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WXWmv1-4xFg&spfreload=10
Photo Credit (Top to Bottom)
“Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life” – 1983 by Monty Python
Person and restrooms, n.d. digital medium, viewed on 17 Mar 2015
Man on segway, n.d. photography, viewed on 17 Mar 2015
The Man In Blue
When I was young
My mom told me a story
Of a man in blue
and his frightening glory.
“He takes away many,
those he might take have to worry.
He’ll take away your brother
or your sister or you or me.”
“He rides a monstrous machine
Shining lights both red and blue.
Black boy black boy
He’s coming for you.”
I was terrified.
No child wants to be taken
I knew it was a story,
But I was still shaken.
“I’ve grown up though!
Now I’ve got nothing to fear,
No man in blue there,
No man in blue here.”
That’s what I once thought,
But now it’s all clear,
He’s coming for me
And he’s filled with cheer
I’m constantly scared
Always watching my back
for the man in blue
to take me for being black.
When I studied abroad in Ghana, I met a myriad of people from different backgrounds and experiences. We all saw the good, the bad, and the ugly. Most of the people I befriended were some of the coolest people I’ll ever have the pleasure of meeting. As a study abroad student, you’ll meet people you can learn from, laugh with, give the extreme side-eye to, and form incredible friendships with. No matter where you study abroad, you’ll always meet some unforgettable characters. Here are just a few types of people you’ll inevitably run into. Now if you go to Ghana, here are some you’ll be sure not to miss.
The “No New Friends” Student
So you took the first step and you actually came to an African country, but are too afraid of the people to make any friends for the entirety of the semester. Identifiable from afar as either a sea of lost-looking white people or those that would otherwise blend in if not for the perpetually confused look on their faces. This one is categorized in the plural form simply because you only see them walking around in international student hordes, on the lookout for muggers or whatever dangerous type of person they were warned about by their friends before coming. Going out to a bar or to the club- simply out of the question. Didn’t you hear that those taxi drivers can kidnap you???
The Gold Digger
You’re the type of person that didn’t come to Ghana to simply study. Or to learn. Or to pay for things. What’s the point of going abroad without living your life like it’s golden? Like literally golden. I mean like you gotta go out to the club dressed to the nines and find yourself a sponsor kind of golden. You’re the type of girl or guy that can be found droppin’ it like it’s hot in a Ghanaian music video, discovered randomly one day six months after the trip. You’ll be approached by suitors left and right and never leave the hostel with a hair out of place. The only money you decide to spend are for taxis to go see your boo when they can’t pick you up, because you know all of your food and drinks will be paid for. You’re in your element and you’re on the prowl. Throughout the semester your clothes will look increasingly more expensive, and people always see you leaving campus in an unidentifiable Mercedes. No one has any idea how you found all these people or all of these new things. You don’t play, you came to get chose. Or better yet, you came to choose.
The “Where are all the lions?” Traveller
The majority of your knowledge of Ghana (or I should probably say just Africa because you probs didn’t know that Ghana was a thing until like, yesterday) comes from National Geographic or some article you read about the Invisible Children that inspired you to “Brave it” and come to Africa. You didn’t really come here to study much, because let’s face it, how hard could the classes actually be? Upon landing, you were surprised and disappointed by the lack of exotic animals walking about, and pretty much just wanted to go home when you found out you were not in fact going to get to ride on a lion. You settle for taking pictures of the random chickens or goats you occasionally see on the road to put in your Safari Facebook album. Club clothes or cute outfits? Nah, your suitcase consists of cargo pants, fanny packs, loose tank tops, and skirts, because there couldn’t possibly be a nightlife in Africa of all places… Right?
The “BACK TO AFRICA” Enthusiast
HELLO MOTHERLAND! You’re finally back home! This is the kente-covered, Kwanzaa-celebrating, braid-wearing, Marcus Garvey back-to-Africa-reading kind of study abroad Africa enthusiast. It really didn’t matter where you studied abroad, as long as it was on your mother continent. You’ll learn as much Twi as you can fill your head with, and trade all of your American clothes for as many Ghanaian clothes you can fill your suitcase with. You already know all of the hottest hiplife artists, so you’re singing right along with all the other Ghanaians whenever you go out. You feel like you’re finally home the moment that you step off the plane, and anytime someone dares to call you an “oburoni,” you make sure to learn them something about how your great-great-grandfather was from “insert random African country here.” You’ll eat all the food, meet all the people, and go to all the places. Of course, you’ll make sure to surround yourself with as many Ghanaian friends as you can find. The post-abroad depression will last for months after the trip, and every time you play your Ghanaian jams on your iPod after that you’ll be counting down the days until you return to your true home.
The Savior Complex
You’re not afraid of Africa. Not afraid at all. You’ve been sponsoring one of those poor kids you see on the TV since the 5th grade. In fact, you came to leave your mark, change the world, absorb the culture. You’re the type of person that was def. singing Beyoncé’s “I Was Here,” trying to pump yourself up for all of the illiterate people you’ll get to teach to read, or the cute little orphans you can take some photos with to get a new Facebook profile picture (b/c you know it’ll get at least like, 100 likes). You’ll shake your head when other students say something ignorant and think to yourself about how glad you are that you’re “down” with the people. The moment anything you don’t understand offends you, you don’t get too upset because after all, they just don’t understand. You didn’t come to this country to simply observe or learn the culture, you’re privileged enough to think you came to teach these people something. You’ll raise your hand and correct the professor with your clearly superior American way of thinking, ignoring the fact that you’re in a completely different country with its own culture and belief systems. That’s no matter to you though, you’re doing the right thing. KONY 2012.
Let’s go skydiving. No, bungee jumping. No no, wait, let’s hike up this trail and go cliff diving. The beach, the zoo, the market, the museum, anything that you can see has to be seen, and everything you can do must be done. You’re the type of person that didn’t come here to just sit around, you’re ready for adventure. On-the-go 24/7, the adventurer is ready for every experience their body can possibly handle. Food? Bring on the spices, you’ll eat anything offered to you. You didn’t drop $1500 for a plane ticket to not experience everything you can while can, right? You’ll go on vacation after vacation, travel to the North, the West, to Togo, to Benin, Nigeria, any place you can get your hands on. You’re the master of the Tro-Tro and learn Twi or Fante with rapid speed. No one has ever seen anyone bargain so well like they’ve lived here all their life either. You are the type of person that will probably come home with a stomach parasite or a worm in their eye from eating the most random street food they can find, but you’ll have the best stories anyone has ever heard.
You’re the type of person that simply confuses everyone. It’s been a week and you’ve already made 30 different Ghanaian friend in the most random places. You’ll leave the room for 5 minutes to buy a bottle of water and come back 3 days later, talking about how you wandered into a group of street musicians and decided to go on a 3 day trip to Togo with them as the tambourine player. Your whole life just seems like a series of random events that no one can follow.
The Walking Stereotype
You’re pretty much the embodiment of every single negative American stereotype that ever existed. You’ll probably lose 15lbs while you’re here because God forbid you actually try to eat any of the food (you didn’t come here to get typhoid, amiright?!) Identifiable by the loud and slow voice you’ll use to talk to the locals to make sure they can understand you, and by the extra malaria pills you’ll be popping. As you walk by, everyone around is immediately hit by a whiff of the strongest insect repellent on the market. Maybe you’ll make comments like, “Wow, I can’t believe there’s actually Wifi here!!” or “At first when I saw the study abroad program listing, I was so surprised that there was a university in Ghana!!” You’re no stranger to getting the side-eye, and you’re always ever so surprised when one of your racist comments is not received well by others. But you’re not racist, you have an African friend. Or just a black friend. You know, one that used to clean your house.
No matter who you meet and where you go if you ever choose to study abroad in Ghana, it will be an experience you never forget. Whether you fit into one of these traveller stereotypes or none of them at all, you’re in for the trip of a lifetime. Buckle up, and enjoy the ride!