Britling Cafeteria macaroni and cheese recipe

Birmingham, Alabama was chock a block with cafeterias and lunch counters inside 5 and dimes when I was a kid. I had numerous favorites spanning the town (long shuttered Joe’s in Woodlawn was particularly good and has escaped every search engine known to man) but Britling was the one that enjoyed the most success. A. W. B. Johnson founded the chain way back in 1917 with Birmingham serving as the first location and springboard for subsequent operations in Memphis, Louisville and Oklahoma City. The cafeterias had a long heyday til the 70s came along when the inevitable proliferation of fast food chains began cutting into their margins.

One solitary hold-out in the Birmingham suburb of Hoover fought the good fight til the late 80s when it was sold and converted into Battle Buffet.

When I began writing about food in that long ago-era, one of the first topics I addressed was macaroni and cheese. Fanning out across the town searching for the best version provided many culinary highlights: Newberry’s on 2nd avenue north had a basement diner that put out an estimable version; the aforementioned Joe’s in Woodlawn was incredible and included the then-exotic white cheese (!) but it was Britling that ruled the roost.

The below recipe is a good one, but duplicating the circumstances of the meal (lunch lady with a beehive scooping the noodles out of a steam pan, elderly Black man carrying your tray to the table, big glass of Red Diamond sweet tea to wash it down) will never be known to my readers.

Pity.

Ingredients:

3 eggs

1 tablespoon salt

1-1/2 cups milk

1/4 cup margarine

1 – 8 ounce package macaroni, cooked

12 ounces sharp Cheddar cheese, grated

Method:

*Beat eggs

*Add salt and milk

*Melt margarine, add to egg and milk mixture

*Pour over cooked macaroni

*Stir in cheese

*Place macaroni and cheese in pan and set that pan into a larger pan of warm water

*Bake at 350 degrees about 45 minutes, until done

*To serve, cut into squares

Yield: 6-8 servings

photo: inside the Britling on Highland Avenue in Birmingham Alabama courtesy flickr.com/photos/edge_and_corner_wear/6910744918/

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