Comfort, Food: David’s House Benefits From Grantham Mac ’n Cheese Festival
Christina Keller, left, and Mark Nathe, both of Eastman, N.H., test a cheesy sample during the first Mac n' Cheese Festival held at The Center at Eastman in Grantham, N.H., on February 22, 2014. Keller said she and Nathe were "like two little piggies" stopping at the festival after skiing nearby. (Valley News - Will Parson) Purchase photo reprints »
Amy Lewis of Grantham, N.H., doles out her 6 Cheese Mac n' Cheese during the first Mac n' Cheese Festival held at The Center at Eastman in Grantham on February 22, 2014. Lewis used extra sharp cheddar, mild cheddar, parmesan, feta, monterey and colby cheeses in her dish. (Valley News - Will Parson) Purchase photo reprints »
Ethel Lotz of Grantham, N.H., serves up samples of the Lobster & Shrimp Mac n' Cheese entry she prepared with cooking partner Nancy Coffey of Grantham, seated at left, during the first Mac n' Cheese Festival held at The Center at Eastman in Grantham, N.H., on February 22, 2014. "We'll be eating mac n' cheese for the next two weeks," said Lotz, who said she and Coffey have been entering chili cook-offs for years. (Valley News - Will Parson) Purchase photo reprints »
Ruth Gardner, right, of Grantham, N.H., hands a sample of her Easy to Please Mac n' Cheese to Liz Borger of Grantham during the first Mac n' Cheese Festival held at The Center at Eastman in Grantham on February 22, 2014. "I'm partial to any one that's different," said Borger, citing varieties using steak and buffalo-style spices as favorites. (Valley News - Will Parson) Purchase photo reprints »
Susan Coakley, center, of Grantham, N.H., talks with Sharon Parker, bottom, of Grantham, while serving the Splashin' Mac n' Cheese entered by their water aerobics class. Cabot Cheese Makers donated cheese used by festival entries. (Valley News - Will Parson) Purchase photo reprints »
Grantham — While the first wave of connoisseurs flooded into the food festival benefiting Al Wakefield’s favorite cause early Saturday afternoon, the longtime David’s House volunteer ’fessed up.
“Macaroni and cheese is one of my least favorite things,” Wakefield said while scooping samples of his Kentucky Mac ’ n Cheese into four-ounce cups in function room of the Center at Eastman. “That’s why it needs the bourbon.”
Bourbon, bacon, maple syrup, shrimp, sweet red peppers, short ribs, buffalo chicken, and the Eastman Water Aerobics group’s “comfort food with a butternut stroke and a pepper-jack kick” mingled with pounds of pasta and as many as six cheeses per recipe at the Eastman Recreation Department’s inaugural Mac ’n Cheese Festival for David’s House.
N early 400 people turned out to sample the dishes and to help the home-away-from-home for families of children undergoing major treatment at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.
“Gruyere and cheddar,” Eastman resident Phil Langsdorf told a taster about Sustainable Eastman’s Solar-Powered Mac ’ n Cheese. “Three pounds of it.”
Claremonters Lynda and Larry Trepanier voted as their favorite recipe the batch into which Ellen Morey and Melissa Allen of Gray Ledges Rentals had mixed bacon, maple syrup, two pounds of butter, 12 pounds of cheese and 36 cloves of garlic.
“It was really pungent, really stood out,” Lynda Trepanier said.
“I like mac ’ n cheese and I make a good mac ’ n cheese. Ellen’s is better than mine.”
After festival organizers added up the votes, only the Easy-to-Please Mac ’ n Cheese recipe that Eastman resident Ruth Gardner Wood makes for her picky-eating children had outpolled Morey’s.
“Just lots of cheese,” Gardner Wood said of special ingredients. “Simplicity is key.”
The Eastman planners decided to make macaroni and cheese the attraction of their annual fundraiser after about a dozen years of holding a chili cook-off and then, in February of 2013, trying a cross-country skiing race … and watching the snow around Eastman melt all winter.
“The chili cook-off was successful over the years,” Eastman Recreation Director Leslie Moses said. “We thought it was time for a change.”
The change evolved in part from Eastman special-events coordinator Charlie Taber’s idea of incorporating mac ’n cheese into the cook-off “because a lot of the kids wanted something different,” Taber’s wife Becky said while serving her family’s Smokin’ Mac ’n Cheese.
Enough kids turned out Saturday to boost the number of admission-paying tasters, and with it the financial take for David’s House, to between $1,000 and $1,500.
Eastman’s Moses said Saturday afternoon that they were still counting bids on 50 decorative canoe oars donated by area artists.
“It’s terrific to see so many families,” David’s House President Stacey Chiocchio said.
“Mac ’ n cheese is really attractive to kids. The ski race was a good idea, but it was weather-dependent, and the weather hasn’t been so reliable.”
On the other hand, the rec department knew it could rely on the surrounding community — from Grantham’s Cadette Girl Scouts, Parent Teacher Group and Dunbar Free Library to Eastman’s Golf Committee and Spanish Speakers conversation group — to contribute time, comfort food and imaginative presentations, such as the Water Aerobics Group’s green-metal mermaid and sea shells.
“I voted for us,” aerobics regular Nancy Luce admitted with a chuckle after dropping her ballot in the basket.
The plurality of votes for presentation went to Sustainable Eastman’s solar panels and cardboard cows — despite the relentless moos issuing from a smart phone hiding in an envelope behind the solar panels.
“I think those cows are going to drive us all crazy,” Langsdorf said.
Only until the doors of the hall opened at high noon, and the herd of mac ’n cheese devotees drowned them out with greetings for friends and groans of cheesy satiation.
David Corriveau can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3304.