Erin Wade, co-chef of Oakland’s beloved mac ‘n’ cheese restaurant Homeroom, gave a reading from “The Mac + Cheese Cookbook” ($16.99, Ten Speed Press) at the bookstore Mrs. Dalloway’s last Wednesday.
The book begins with a few blurbs about Homeroom and the co-chefs/owners/authors Wade and Allison Arevalo. It offers many recipes for mac and cheese — from Trailer Mac, with potato chips and hot dogs, to Patatas Bravas Mac, with potatoes and paprika. There are two sections on sides and desserts, convenient conversion charts in the back and, for those who have never made mac and cheese, the book offers a step-by-step lesson on how to make Mac Sauce, a basic cheese sauce that goes with most of the recipes.
“We’ve kept the recipes simple,” Wade explained, “since mac and cheese is a comfort food that everyone should be able to make.”
While the cookbook maintains the simplicity Wade mentions, it is also delightfully crafty. For example, to give a throwback to recess and grade school euphoria, it includes doodles of paper airplanes, goats, lemons and more. It also has a troubleshooting section to help you ace the “spoon test,” which determines whether you’ve properly made the Mac Sauce or messed it up.
After talking about the book, Wade told the unconventional story of how she became a chef.
“I started off as a food reviewer for The Princetonian when I was an undergraduate,” she said. “Afterwards, I became a pastry chef in New York, then a lawyer in San Francisco. Then the firm fired me — which ended up being a blessing.”
Homeroom began when she “randomly met Allison at Bittersweet Cafe on College.” The pair realized later that they should go into business together. Lots of friends told her she was crazy. Both Arevalo and Wade committed their life savings to a one-food specialty restaurant in a neighborhood where street traffic averages four people per hour.
“If Homeroom didn’t work out,” Wade admitted, “I would probably be living out of my car right now.”
But that wasn’t the case. Three years after stumbling across 400 40th St. while hunting for a storefront, Arevalo and Wade own it. Soon they’ll be opening a mac and cheese takeout shop across the street with picnic tables and soft-serve ice cream.
“The advice I would give young people is to not think linearly,” Wade said during Q&A. “Our parents teach us to go to school, get a job and to work hard, but fulfillment isn’t guaranteed in the end. … If you want something, you have to give it to yourself.”
“The Mac + Cheese Cookbook” represents Wade’s fresh approach to an American classic, which was reflected in her excitement and creativity during the reading.
Contact Josh Escobar at [email protected]