Good home cooking is a given in small towns.
And every once in a while, you find someone who has made a certain dish famous in that community.
That's the case in Slaton, Texas. That’s where we were told by several people, "Oh, you have to talk to the 'macaroni and cheese lady.'"
But before I got stuck with a story that wasn’t really a story, I decided to check it out to see if there really was such a person. My photographer and I drove around Slaton looking for people in the yard.
We noticed a lady watering the bushes. So I walked up the driveway and asked, "Have you ever heard of the Macaroni and cheese lady?" She laughed and said, "Yes, I have heard of the macaroni and cheese lady." We drove further into the neighborhood and found a lady tending to her flowers. I walked up to her and asked the same thing. She said, "Yes, I have heard of the macaroni and cheese lady. She is one of the most caring people I know."
Wondering if this was just a neighborhood thing, we drove downtown to the main street square. As a lady was walking up the steps to the Slaton bakery, I asked her the same question. She said, "Well, of course, that's Joanne Lancaster." I even followed that lady into the bakery to get a professional opinion from the people who worked there. When I asked about the macaroni and cheese lady, two ladies wearing blue aprons said to each other, “That’s got to be Joanne, right? Joanne Lancaster?"
OK, that was convincing.
So, we found out where she lived and knocked on her door.
When a lady answered, I asked: "Are you the macaroni and cheese lady?"
She nearly hugged me when she stepped out the door and said, "I am. You come on in here and taste it!"
Joanne Lancaster had a big batch in the oven already but took it out to add some ingredients. After all, this is her own recipe that she says she has improved over time. She told me, "I’ve been married 54 years and I’ve been making it 54 years. And I give a lot of it away."
And just like any good cook, the macaroni and cheese lady has a few secret ingredients. But Joanne is not just any good cook, She says, "I have one little secret ingredient – but I have given it away too – so it’s not a secret anymore." She says Pioneer Country Dry Gravy Mix is one of her not so secret secrets. She adds a little bit of that into making a big batch of macaroni and cheese once or twice a week, every week. She makes it for funeral meals at the church, for birthdays, for people in need or just for no reason at all. Actually, the reason is that she likes to give it away to make people smile.
But to my surprise, I learned that Joanne Lancaster is not the only one who has made a statement in her kitchen in Slaton. Her son Kyle started his career on these counters, making his own brand of salsa. She explains, "It’s called Kylitos Salsa Company and they also have added a queso in the past year."
You’ll find Kylitos on store shelves in Slaton and Lubbock. In fact, the business has grown so much that Kyle and another brother, Craig, run it together, sending seven varieties of Kylitos all over Texas, New Mexico and Louisiana.
I asked, "So you’re the macaroni lady. Who’s more famous, you or your sons?"
She laughed and said proudly, "Oh, I think the sons, very muchly so. They’re making some money on them. I’m not. I am the mama. I take credit for being the mama."
So, yes, there is a beloved "Macaroni and Cheese" lady in Slaton, Texas.
But I think she might rather be called the "Macaroni and Cheese" Mama.
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