Origin of 'mac and cheese'. Sorta.

I recall hearing the term “mac and cheese” in common parlance only in the past ten years or so. For all the time before that, I heard “macaroni and cheese.”

So. . .

When did the term “mac and cheese” start becoming commonplace?

The term “mac & cheese” to mean “macaroni and cheese” starts out life much earlier than either you or I would have thought.

But, you’re probably correct that it doesn’t make it into the mainstream until the last 20 years or so.

I can find grocery store ads for "mac & cheese loaf" :eek: as early as 1933. I’m sure it must have been a depression special.

You could buy “mac & cheese” dinners in a box at the grocery store by the late 1930s. Now, whether the average person called it that, I don’t know.

As a kid in the 60’s, it was referred as mac 'n cheese in our house. It wasn’t the crap out of a box either, it was baked in the oven and had the brown crispy top we would fight over.

I’ve never heard it called anything else. I suppose that only covers 20 years though. I wouldn’t touch the stuff till college.

As a Brit, the use of the term here confused me when I joined; I assumed it must be something involving a Big Mac with cheese, so why didn’t people just say ‘cheeseburger’?
In our family when I was growing up, it was just macaroni - the cheese was assumed.

'Merkin here, but I have the same recollection as the fellow just above. As a kid in the 60’s we called the Kraft stuff in the blue box just “macaroni”. And ate it twice a week with lots of ketchup.

Some time in the, I’d guess, 1980s I began to hear it called “mac n’ cheese”. Which is what I call it now.

And what about spaghetti and meatballs turning into just plain ‘spaghetti’? When did that contraction come about?

Well, it doesn’t always come with meatballs.

Hearing “mac n’ cheese” makes me think of lazy, poor people. If you’re so lazy that you can’t call something what it is, then no wonder you live in the ghetto. Yes, I know that that’s not “proper”; I can’t help what I think in this respect. It’s still less grating than “Kraft Dinner” which my Ontario neighbors seem to use to refer to all macaroni and cheese dishes, whether they’re “Kraft Dinner” or not (the term being the Canadian branding of our familiar but mediocre “Kraft Macaroni and Cheese Dinner” which is not a dinner but a side dish).

“Spaghetti” is never a substitute for “spaghetti and meatballs.” It’s the pasta only. Not all spaghetti dishes have meatballs, and there are dozens of different sauces and preparations. If someone asked me if I wanted spaghetti, it’d be a completely meaningless question without knowing how it was being offered.

Where do people say just spaghetti when they mean spaghetti and meatballs?

Wow. Really? Mac and Cheese has been common for a really long time.


Yeah, yeah, I know. You can make up the most obscure rendering of anything commonplace, and someone somewhere will say, “That’s the way I’ve always heard it.” I think samclem sorta bolsters my point that the widespread usage is of relatively recent vintage.

Personally, I’d point to an episode of “Friends”–in which Joey played in a TV program called “Mac and C.H.E.E.S.E.”–as the introduction of it into popular lexicon. Eh, that’s as good as anything else.

I rather doubt that, since I recall hearing it in New York well before “Friends” came out.

The fact that you haven’t heard it until recently strikes me as particularly odd considering your location, since I had always thought of “mac and cheese” as being a Southern thing. But maybe not.

The food, yes. That exact phrase, though, until the past 15 or so years, not so much.

But I could be wrong. My family was so poor that “blue box macaroni” was somewhat of a delicacy on those occasions when we had it.

While I admit that true goulash doesn’t have macaroni, I grew up eating a goulash dish made with elbow macoroni pasta. We simply called it goulash. In my army days, though, everyone – including the dining facility – tended to call it “chilimac.” That’s just as offensive to my ears as “mac and cheese.” /me shudders.

isn’t goulash specific towards the hungarian recipe? “chilimac” to me means loads of tomato paste, which isn’t goulashy.

Except that that joke doesn’t make any sense unless ‘mac ‘n’ cheese’ is already in common usage.

Growing up in NZ, we would have “Macaroni Cheese”, in the same way we would have “Cauliflower Cheese”.

Spaghetti most generally referred to a tinned spaghetti with tomato sauce (from Watties). Anything else was Spaghetti Bolognaise, or Spaghetti and Meatball, and so on.


A gentle reminder. This is the General Questions forum. We have a rule here that says:


I’m sure you didn’t intend to offend anybody, but I hope you can see how some folks might nevertheless be offended by a statement like that. Please try to keep it factual. No warning issued.

General Questions Moderator

I won’t pretend to be offended, but I think his statement was a wee bit misguided.

I grew up in the Midwest in a large custom built home on a couple of acres with two professional parents. I don’t think anyone would consider it the “getto”, but we called this dish Mac 'n Cheese. We did so because my parents who lived in rural Iowa called it this. If you added a can of Hormell Chili it was “Spa-chee.” I think this was unique to my family because I don’t know anyone else who called it this.

My point is we didn’t call it Mac because we were too lazy to say Macaroni… it was just the name. I did know what Macaroni was, and I even knew that it was Elbow Macaroni that was used in the dish called Mac 'n Cheese. We also call my daughter by a four letter name that is contained in her eight letter “official” name. Again it isn’t because I’m lazy (well, I am but it isn’t the reason here) and we aren’t from the getto… it is just her name.