Enough tiptoeing around the issue. I’m going to come right out and say it. Stouffer’s brand Macaroni & Beef with Tomatoes is the best godamned frozen dinner you can ever eat. Ever. All right, naysayers, I hear what you’re saying, with your wailing protests of Hungry Man XXL “Backyard BBQ,” and Kid Cuisine “Fiesta Beef Taco Dippers,” but no. You’re wrong. Stouffer’s hearty mix of tomatoes, beef, and elbow macaroni is the only acceptable thing that could ever come out of your microwave. Ready in just four minutes, and weighing it at only 330 calories and 700,000 grams of sodium, this one is a delight to all the senses. I like to microwave mine a little too long, so I get a nice crust around the rim. Mix in some red pepper flakes, crack a Shipyard Pumpkinhead, and you’ve got a delicious ten minutes in front of you, my friend.
It is important to always keep a backup box on the bottom shelf in the freezer, what my Dad used to refer to as his “emergency” stash of macaroni and beef, for a delicious emergency that he never explained, and that never seemed to arrive. Always, always, always have at least two boxes on hand. Why two? Because you need one as a liferaft. You can even write “For Emergency Use Only” on it in black Sharpie, but that’s just me. If you only have one, then you will never eat it. Because if you eat it, it will be gone. And then you won’t be able to eat it.
On the surface, this may look like that “American Chop Suey” made-up food, that government-issued canned gruel that used to get ice cream-scooped onto your tray in the fourth grade. But it’s not, and I dare you to try and make it from scratch. It can’t be accomplished. “Oh, but Malcolm,” I imagine you saying, “You can just mix some hamburger into a box of macaroni and cheese!” Well, sir, such an imaginary response makes me want to smack your imaginary face. You think I haven’t tried that? It’s not the same thing, not by a long shot. I’ve looked at the attempted recipe knockoffs online. I’ve even tried buying every item on the ingredient list (except, of course, for the dextrose, cultured whey, and other items generally unavailable to home cooks), in an effort to bulk-replicate the results found in this tiny plastic tray. But no. There is no replicating this synthetic food magic, this mix of flavors, the zip of the tomatoes, the hearty chunks of beef. It’s bliss in a tiny red box.