Allison Day


Fridgg.com

a-taste-of-yellow

It’s 1999. I’m 12 years old. Just like every other morning, I get up and pour myself a bowl of cereal, before heading to another day of 7th grade. But this morning is not like every other morning. I’m sitting at the dining-room table with my little sister eating breakfast. My dad isn’t there, but he usually goes to work pretty early. My brother isn’t there, but he’s a “late-bird” in his first-grade class, so he doesn’t have to be up for another hour. There was no way to know that this wasn’t another normal day in the life of a twelve-year old.

Unfortunately, it’s not like any other day. My mom comes and sits at the table. “You might have noticed that your brother and dad aren’t here. The doctor called last night and told us that your brother’s blood tests came back, and he had to go to the hospital right away. They think he might have leukemia.” Wow. What do you do when you hear that sort of news?

That was March 1st, 1999. My brother was five years old, and he had leukemia. Those were hard times. I remember not being able to talk to anyone about it for a while, because they wanted to make sure it was leukemia before they told anyone about it. I remember going to the hospital and visiting him, but having to leave because he was getting horrible headaches from the treatment. I remember my uncle taking my sister and I out to Sea World, and going climbing at the fake rock wall near my house, and going with our cousins to the Long Beach Aquarium, so we could still get out and have some fun while my parents spent all their time at the hospital with my brother. I remember his first grade teacher coming to home school him. I remember going to Disneyland and getting to go to the front of every line for his Make-A-Wish wish. I remember my dad taking him to the movie theater in the middle of the day when no one would be there, just so he could get out even though he couldn’t come into contact with other people. Other than that, most of that time is a daze. I don’t think at that age I really understood the gravity of all that was happening. After the first initial shock of my brother being really sick, it was pretty much just accepted as a fact of life.

Three years later, he went into remission. The cancer was gone.

****

Fast forward seven years. Now I’m in college. I visit home and glance at the calendar that we write all our appointments on. I see something about my dad having surgery, and ask my mom about it. Turns out, now my dad has prostate cancer. They had known for a while, but no one told me because they didn’t want to distract me during finals.

That was a hard time for us… to see my dad, always so strong, now weak and sick and pretty much just sitting on the couch all the time. I was at school so I didn’t have to see it very often, but I know it was very difficult for my siblings who were at home. Luckily he had his surgery and treatment, so he’s all better now.

****

Last September, I called my mom. She had said she was going to cook okazu for us (Son loves her okazu), so I wanted to make sure that was still in the plans. Turns out, that was NOT in the plans any longer. My brother had come home sick from school that morning (the first day of sophomore year! He has great timing.) and ended up in the hospital. He had relapsed. He had leukemia again. This time, I was old enough to really comprehend the gravity of the situation. The first time, I don’t think I really cried about him being sick. This time, Son came home and held me for hours while I sobbed.

This time, it’s both easier and harder for my brother. Easier because he’s been through it once before, so he knows what he’s in for. Same doctors, same nurses, same wing in the hospital. He even knows some of the other patients, so when he and a friend are there at the same time, they do what they can to be roommates. Harder because he misses seeing his friends at school every day (even though he sees them after school quite often) and, as he puts it, this time he actually cares what he looks like! Which means he wasn’t too pleased about losing his hair or putting on weight from the chemotherapy. Such a ladies man he is.

He’s going through treatment right now. He should be, for about another year. Yet in many ways he’s still a normal teenager. He skateboards, goes to the beach, goes to see his favorite bands play, text messages his friends 24/7. He blasts hip-hop music from his room, has to have all the coolest clothes and *stuff*, and pesters my parents to let him start learning how to drive. And in a year, he’ll be all better.

****

I know I’ve told you about my family’s battle with cancer when I made the Orange Cupcakes for the second Taste and Create, but I felt I had to tell it once more for a very special reason. This year I decided to participate in the A Taste of Yellow event, hosted by Winos and Foodies, for LiveSTRONG Day 2008. We had to take a picture of some sort of yellow food and include the LiveSTRONG wristband in the picture. I had made this Mac N’ Cheese with a Twist from Finger Licking Food for Taste and Create, but since it’s yellow and I hadn’t taken a picture for this yet, I decided to use it for the LiveSTRONG event and make something else from her blog for Taste and Create. (That’s coming later this week!)

****

This is the most heavenly macaroni and cheese I have ever had! It wasn’t too difficult to make, and even though it took a little while, I’ll definitely make it again! Yes, it’s that good. The red peppers and onions get soft enough to really melt in your mouth, and everyone knows I love bacon in just about anything! If you are making this for kids who are picky about vegetables, try using yellow bell peppers instead of red. They will blend in with the cheese so the kids won’t be able to see them, and there are no weird textures that a child might be put off by. Excellent macaroni and cheese!

Ingredients
  • 2 cups macaroni elbows
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1½ cups milk
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 5 slices bacon, cooked until crisp and crumbled
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 tbsp all-purpose Flour
  • 1 slice bread, crumbled
  • green onions, chopped, for garnish
Cooking Directions
  1. Bring a large pot of water to boil.
  2. Salt generously, add a tsp of oil and then add the pasta.
  3. Stir and cook for about 8 minutes or until pasta is cooked through.
  4. Drain pasta and set aside.
  5. Heat oil in a pan.
  6. Add the onions and bell pepper.
  7. Saute for a few minutes until onions and peppers are soft.
  8. Microwave milk for about a minute, so it is hot but not boiling.
  9. Add the flour to the vegetables and stir continuously until vegetables are coated and the flour no longer looks white.
  10. Cook on low heat for 2 minutes.
  11. Slowly stir in the hot milk.
  12. Preheat oven to 450F.
  13. Turn off stove-top heat.
  14. Stir in the salt, pepper and the shredded cheese.
  15. Stir in the cooked pasta and bacon, and toss to coat evenly.
  16. Transfer to a 9″x13″ baking dish and spread to form an even layer.
  17. Top with the bread crumbs and a handful of shredded cheese.
  18. Place in preheated oven and bake for 20-25 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and the bread crumbs have browned. Let sit for a few minutes before serving. Garnish with green onions.

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Comments

  1. James Chartrand - Men with Pens says:

    Wishing your brother the best and a healthy recovery soon. As for mac n’ cheese, I was going to make some this week. I’ll try this recipe in his honor, how’s that?

  2. Allison says:

    James, thank you so much. I really hope you like the mac n’ cheese! It takes a bit of effort, but it’s worth every second!

  3. Bob Younce at the Writing Journey says:

    Extremely powerful post.

    Our family has had its first encounter with cancer in the last few weeks. You always hear about it and, intellectually, realize how horrible it is, how it can eat away at a human being. But I don’t think you ever feel the gravity of it until it hits at home, or close to home. And you’ve had to deal with it more than most.

    On a lighter note, thanks for the suggestion on the yellow bell peppers. My middle daughter has rather selective eating habits, especially when it comes to textures.

    Great post! I’m your newest subscriber.

  4. Lara says:

    I pray the treatments work soon and your brother goes into remission again. Hang in there.

  5. Allison says:

    Bob – I’m so sorry you and your family had to encounter cancer. That’s something I don’t wish upon anyone, but unfortunately so many people are affected by cancer. I hope your family is alright, and I wish for a fast recovery for your family member or friend with cancer.

    I was an extremely picky child, but I think with yellow bell peppers I would have liked this! Plus, it’s got bacon. I’ve always been a sucker for darn near anything with bacon in it. πŸ™‚

    Lara – Thank you very much. Things are looking good so far, and he’s set to be done in about a year.

  6. barbara says:

    Hi Allison All the best to your brother. The treatment is a pain but it sounds like he is handling it really well. The macaroni cheese sounds great. Thanks for supporting LiveSTRONG With A Taste Of Yellow.

  7. Allison says:

    Thanks Barbara! Things are going pretty well. Sometimes they have to postpone chemotherapy if his blood counts are particularly low, but aside from that things are going fine.

    I’m glad to be a part of your event! It certainly is a wonderful event. πŸ™‚

  8. Nez says:

    We often get so used to the online personas that are “out there” in the ether that is the World Wide Web, but everyone’s got a “story”.

    Thank you so much for sharing yours.

  9. Robert-Gilles Martineau (Γ£Ζ’Β­Γ£Ζ’β„’Γ£Ζ’Β«Γ£β‚¬β€šΓ£β€šΒΈΓ£Ζ’Β«) says:

    Dear Allison!
    I might sound harsh but this is life. One of my nieces has multiple sclerosis, my nephew has an unknown kind of tumor in his brain which might or might not explode any time. I have another niece who has been a human vegetable since birth. What’s important is that we, the younger or older, must lead as a normal life as we can as this is daily encouragement to our less lucky kin.
    You are doing a great job at that and I have a lot of respect for you.
    Be assured I’m with you. Your smiling face is the best you can offer to your brother!
    Take good care of youreslf (ves)!
    Robert-Gilles

  10. Yvo says:

    That looks truly scrumptious! Homemade mac & cheese is worth the effort, and it’s really not that bad- Alton Brown has a method for “stovetop style” mac & cheese that’s super easy and sooooooo much better than the box stuff, though BF does, to my chagrin, still prefer the box stuff 9 times out of 10. He perceives it as easier. I no longer stock the stuff πŸ˜‰
    I’m glad to hear your brother and father are doing better. I have to say that cancer is no joke and it is possibly the worst thing in the world to watch a loved one succumbing to it (personal experience, unfortunately) – watching them waste away. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. *hugs*

    Also, I must add, I knew you were younger than me, but I had no idea by so much…

  11. Brett Legree says:

    Allison,

    I finally got back here to say hello. This is without a doubt the most powerful thing I’ve read in a very long time. Your brother will be better soon.

    I am going to make this dish for my family, in honour of your family, and think about all of you while we enjoy it. My kids love mac & cheese, and this one looks to be the best I’ve ever seen.

    Take care and talk with you soon – Brett

  12. Allison says:

    Nez – Yeah, it’s far too easy to forget there are real people with real lives behind the blogs and screen names. Thanks so much for visiting!

    Robert-Gilles – Yes, it is very true and very unfortunate that life is like this. Thank you so much for your support and encouragement!

    Yvo – It really, truly is. I made it the second time in a week today, and I’ll probably make it again tomorrow or Thursday. Soooo good! And really easier than it looks! Now that I’ve had this, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to go back to the boxed stuff.

    Yeah, having to watch a loved one with cancer really is horrible. Fortunately I haven’t lost anyone to cancer, but I know you have and you have my hugs. I’m not *that* much younger than you… only what, like six years? πŸ™‚

    Brett – Thank you for that. It means a lot to me to hear that you think this was powerful. πŸ™‚ I’ll go out on a limb, and say… your kids are going to love this. Especially if they like mac n’ cheese. It truly is delicious!

  13. Brett Legree says:

    Allison,

    Success! I finally got around to making this mac n’ cheese – as it is Mother’s Day, I thought I’d make something nice and cozy. Everyone *loved* it! And I have enough to take to work tomorrow, too.

    Hope you’re having a good day, my friend.

    -Brett

  14. Allison says:

    Fantastic! I’m so glad to hear your family liked it! πŸ™‚

  15. sam says:

    thank you for sharing your story a second time. I might never have heard it otherwise, and then I would never have been able to wish all the best to your brother. I am rooting for him.

  16. Allison says:

    Sam, thank you so much for stopping by. My family and I really appreciate your well wishes. πŸ™‚

  17. birdwatching binoculars says:

    This life is plenty of obstacles. Allison, your story impressed me deeply… I wish you good luck.

  18. Corner Fish Tank says:

    The recipe looks awesome and I’m gonna test it out tonight.

  19. Vols-au-Vents on Fridgg.com says:

    […] was all the work worth it? Oh goodness yes. I made some big ones with macaroni and cheese in them, which were good. Then I made some mini ones and some twists out of the scraps of puff […]

  20. Lemon Crinkles, for the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap on Fridgg.com says:

    […] battle against childhood cancer is also something that’s near and dear to my heart, because my younger brother had leukemia twice, as a child and a teenager. (He’s been in remission for a few years […]

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