the recipe series: butternut squash macaroni & cheese

{this recipe series is dedicated to second generation nsquad and all the lessons we learned and all the dirt under our fingernails and the stories we still carry from Africa.}

(This recipe has absolutely no measurements because I have made it for the following amounts of people: 4. 22. 55)Cubed butternut squash

Macaroni noodles

Shredded cheese


Garlic for days



My 8th month of the world race I was in Nsoko, Swaziland living in a team house with 21 other women.

Sounds crazy yes?

I was team-leading a group of 4 other lovely, bad-ass women (our name was team BA for all correctly assumed reasons) and we were doing everything from hugging babies to harvesting cabbage.


team BA: month 8 debrief lip sync champions

And though we probably won’t admit it–one of the best parts of separating the men and the women for one month was not having to worry about feeding the men.

(They ate a lot.)

We took turns cooking every night and grocery shopping every 3-4 days because there was only so much food in Swazi supermarkets and 22 women needed A LOT of cabbage. I mean food. Breakfast and lunches were individually based, cooking and making food as you got up or when you had a break in ministry and dinners were family style. The cooking teams were so creative that month, from taco nights to soups to yes, cabbage, in literally everything.

Another amazing thing about that month was the lovely WR alumni Morgan who brought us peanut butter cups and coffee creamers and stacks of magazines.

And tossed among those were cooking lights. And for women who had been surviving off of cabbage and food cooked over coals, it was like water in a desert.

And then someone said “hey meg, you should make this butternut squash casserole”.

Challenge accepted.

Cooking for other people is one of my favorite things.

Even cooking with dull knives, water that runs out when people are using the community water tap and not super hot gas stoves.

I created this random recipe to the best of my ability. And I had blisters on my hands from cutting squash. And was also super grateful I didn’t have to scrub the pots of the aftermath.

But then two weeks later, I made this dish again.
For my entire squad.

Here’s the thing: this isn’t a hard recipe. You essentially make macaroni and cheese and then you cube and boil butternut squash and mash it up like potatoes. Once everything is cooked you combine it all so the cheese melts into the noodles and the butternut squash is creamy.

It is macaroni and cheese with butternut squash. That is it.

But when I sat around a table in the kitchen of the cozy off-the-grid hostel on what would be the last night I was in Africa since then with 5 people from squad chopping and dicing enough butternut squash to fit 50+people, I wasn’t just chopping and dicing, I was allowing myself to begin to breath out Africa.


RIP my african tan

Being in Africa for three months took a toll on my mind, body and soul and in that last week in Africa I knew I just needed to get out of Africa to have my head on straight again. Africa gets in between your toes and under your fingernails. Africa is a battle from sun up to sun up again.

And that moment cutting and chopping and dicing and laughing with friends I had been journeying with since January; I laughed. Big belly laughs and giggles and even some tears. My whole body hurt and was tired from sleeping on sleeping pads, on cement floors and dirt. All of my clothes were more than a little dirty from handwashing and a month in Mozi when it never stopped raining.

But my heart was full of memories of women in the Mozambique marketplace and the smell of guavas and so many other things I can’t even begin to describe.

I didn’t chop Africa out of my life that night as I made food for Nsquad; but I allowed myself to say goodbye.
I said goodbye to Africa stirring an overflowing soup pot and crammed on the floor of the carpeted main room at the hostel. I said goodbye to Africa pulled up the bar outside with a beer in hand listening to the sounds of Swaziland settle around me.

I said goodbye to Africa doing my most favorite thing, cooking with those I love. And feeding my family.

Cooking isn’t just cooking for me.

It’s the ability to pour out my story into food and just myself to see what it said.


It’s the work of my soul.

What’s yours?

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