When Dissertation Research Meets Gastronerdy

As you may or may not know, I am currently a PhD student at Emory University in Comparative Literature. My dissertation puts Albert Camus into conversation with various contemporary Caribbean authors. Sometimes, my love for food mingles with my academic writing endeavors, and sometimes I need to write these interactions creatively. Here’s a little fusion …


Lunch-Box Learning: Stepping away from Consumer Food Culture

These carrots would not be up to par for typical school lunches, according to Anne Lammot’s “School Lunches”, a chapter in her book Bird by Bird. This chapter discusses the exhibition of elementary and high school lunches in America, along with how to use such  detailed experiences–and their nuances from one person to the next–to start …


A Complex Allergy: Systemic Nickel Allergy Syndrome and a Low Nickel Diet

The last two years of my life have been a roller coaster ride in which my health deteriorated and I watched my body begin to crumble before my very eyes. Luckily, I was properly diagnosed in December with Systemic Nickel Allergy Syndrome (SNAS), and six months into following a complex and strict protocol, I have …

pasta Recipes Sauces

Casserole Family Night

Just as a casserole brings many ingredients together, it also brings people together to enjoy each other’s company. When I stay with my middle sister and her husband, I frequently cook for them. What started out with a pantry scanning activity to decide what to make for dinner one night quickly turned into a dish that they now ask for every time I come over.


Here are my secrets:


Take about a pound of brown rice pasta and put it in a pot with half a stick of butter. Once the butter is melted, pour half and half over the pasta, until it is covered. Bring it to a gentle boil but QUICKLY turn down the heat to keep it at a simmer. Overcooking the milk will make the sauce break, so it is important to keep your eye on it.


Pick your own poisons to add at the same time you put in the half and half. My favorite blend is garlic powder, cayenne, minced and dried onions, and herbs de provence. However, this can change depending on which vegetables you pick.


Once the half and half is at a boil, add whatever chopped vegetables you so desire. My typical choices are spinach and broccoli. Make sure to chop thicker vegetables thinner.


The sauce happens naturally. By the time the pasta is al dente, you should have a thin sauce that could use a little thickening. This is when you add a bunch of your favorite cheese: in this case, a white cheddar gruyere blend.

As soon as the cheese is melted, this whole mixture can go into a freshly-oiled lasagna pan, and you can cover the top with more cheese. Place into the oven at 375 ° until the cheese on top is lightly browned. Make sure to wait about five minutes before serving, because otherwise it will won’t be firm enough to serve squares.

The beauty about this casserole is our interaction while we eat it. We place this casserole in the center of the table. I serve each of us a small square. We eat it together and talk. Once we’re all done,  I ask if they want seconds; we always do. We serve the second round together, and by the end of this round, we’re starting to whoop with fullness. But this is the part that makes me smile: when we finish this round, I ask them how they feel and whether or not they’re done. My brother-in-law usually responds, “This round’s dessert!” and we finish the casserole in a third round together. Hearing that dinner was good enough to count as dessert, and that we’re going to act like it’s dessert to be able to eat more is one of the biggest compliments a chef could get!


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