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Reclaimed Macaroni Salad

Yesterday, our saucier, Fredrick, approached the refrigerator with a quick glance in my direction. Hesitatingly, he used a crude FIMO-covered magnet to tack to the refrigerator door a drawing from his daughter. The drawing was of a flower in macaroni relief. A piece of macaroni detached itself and fell to the floor with a succession of soft clicks that diminished as I approached Fredrick.

“I hope it’s okay,” he said with his eyes on the crack under fridge where the macaroni had disappeared, “Emma makes so many of these. I’m not sure what to do with them any more. We’ve run out of space at home, so she asked me to bring this to work.”

This seemed like a trend to be quashed, so I suggested that Fredrick take advantage of his young daughter’s still-goldfish memory and quietly discard older drawings. She’ll never notice.

“But she can paper the entire fridge in a day. Besides, what am I supposed to do with them? Throw them out? She pours her heart into these things.”

I informed Fredrick that I didn’t care what he did with the tripe as long as he didn’t tack it to our refrigerator. The last thing I need is dry macaroni falling into a bowl of borscht on its way into service. But, sensing a desperate man, I softened a bit and suggested the following solution that puts the art to a use better than landfill:

Begin by collecting the oldest, or the most insipid, macaroni art from around the house. The refrigerator is a good place to start, though some families dedicate walls to this stuff.

A childish macaroni art drawing of an adult and a child standing on grass with the sun overhead and a heart between them; labeled, 'I love you mommy'

With a stiff spatula, scrape the macaroni from the paper. If your child uses too much glue, a spatula might be insufficient—try a razor blade and have a talk with your child about moderation.

A spatula scraping macaroni off of a macaroni art drawing

The macaroni will come off with glue and paper bits. Don’t worry about these for now. Standard school glue will dissolve in water and the paper bits will be easier to separate after cooking.

A pile of macaroni that has been scraped off of a macaroni art drawing; the pile is sitting on what remains of the drawing

After loosening the macaroni from 3-4 drawings, slide it into boiling water and cook for 8 minutes, or just past al dente.

Macaroni being slid off of a macaroni art drawing into a pot of water over a lit burner

Pour the cooked macaroni into a strainer, rinse it quickly under cold water, and dunk it into an ice water bath for about 1 minute. Drain the macaroni well and pick out any remaining paper bits.

Cooked macaroni in a blue colander; bits of paper remain in the macaroni

In a large bowl, toss the macaroni with a high-end vinegar (a good balsamic will do, though I like pomegranate or currant), olive oil, sliced cherry tomatoes, and chopped basil until well mixed. Sprinkle with freshly ground salt and pepper and lightly toss again.

Cooked macaroni in a metal bowl with a wooden spoon in it; basil and tomatoes sit on a wooden cutting board in front of the bowl; vinegar and olive oil are behind the bowl

Top with Kalamata olives and goat cheese feta crumbles. Serve immediately with a glass of white wine.

Finished macaroni salad with olives tomatoes and feta crumbles on a white plate with a metal fork; a glass of white wine is behind the plate on a napkin; all sit on a colorful tablecloth

If your child is as prolific as Fredrick’s, you might wish to introduce him/her to new media such as spinach fettuccine (makes great grass), risoni, and tortellini so you don’t get bored. Alternatively, smother the cooked macaroni in Cheez Whiz® and serve it to your kid.

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