You may have seen McDonald’s viral tweet earlier this week, which sort of gets at the (creamy) (melted) heart of the matter: It’s a list of several delicious cheeses that Reid sent to him, which McDonald then shared with the world. And maybe you didn’t want to know anything more than what cheeses Andy Reid loves to cook with the most. (And who doesn’t love Gruyere?) But I wanted to know more. I wanted to know how this text exchange came to brie; whether the experience was as gouda as it seems; why the entire conversation ever a curd. Etc.
So McDonald is a 23-year-old living outside of Baltimore and trying to make his way in the world of NFL analytics. He writes film breakdowns for Football Outsiders, hosts the Setting the Edge podcast and tweets an awful lot of football analysis. And his fledgling career led to a crazy two-week span in which he spoke at the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference (focusing on misconceptions about some famous NFL plays) and then went straight to Indianapolis to cover the NFL combine. These were both good things, but they’re also exhausting, and when McDonald was finally in the Indianapolis airport Monday afternoon, he just wanted to go home. Then his departure was delayed due to plane maintenance. In frustration, he wandered around the airport killing time, and wound up sitting, without even noticing, within earshot of a gaggle of Chiefs employees.
Reid, the head coach, was joking about a Chiefs strength coach who manages to maintain his trim build despite an encyclopedic familiarity with every burger joint in Kansas City, and McDonald gradually entered the conversation by talking about his two weeks on the road and how much he missed home-cooked meals.
Now the conversation was really on. Reid started talking about his love of soul food, and his fondness for cooking dishes like collard greens and fried chicken, and whether one should put salt or sugar in one’s grits. They started talking about favorite Thanksgiving sides, because everyone in the world loves that particular conversation, even if it’s March.
“I’ve got a great mac and cheese recipe,” Reid said.
“It can’t be as good as my grandma’s,” McDonald noted.
“You want to see it?” Reid asked. “If you want it, I’ll send it to you.”
McDonald hadn’t started the day expecting to be exchanging texts about Thanksgiving sides with an NFL coach, but sure enough, Reid showed him an entire library of recipes saved on his phone — “an unfathomable amount,” as McDonald put it. And then the coach texted him the mac and cheese recipe, which, as mentioned, isn’t even a recipe but just a list of six cheeses for a seven-cheese recipe evidently requiring only five cheeses.
“It’s literally just the cheeses he uses; there’s no measurements or anything,” McDonald pointed out.
At some point, Chiefs defensive backs coach Al Harris wandered over and joked that they should make sure McDonald wasn’t wearing a wire, “and I’m like ‘Dude, we’re just talking about Thanksgiving food, it’s not that serious,’ ” McDonald said.
McDonald, of course, tweeted the “recipe,” because how could he not? Then he took a nap. When he woke up, his phone was lighting up like a particularly rank piece of Stilton. And so began a brief brush with viral dairy fame. ESPN posted some of the cheeses on Snapchat. Around the Horn held an off-air discussion about the recipe, with Woody Paige describing McDonald as “a guy in the airport.” The tweet attracted more than 3,000 likes. McDonald texted Reid back to say he hadn’t expected their exchange to blow up; “Lol,” Reid replied. “Good pub for u. Let’s eat!!!”
Pete Sweeney from the well-known Chiefs blog Arrowhead Pride even converted the list of cheeses into an actual recipe, which he cooked and consumed.
“I don’t cook. It hasn’t ever really been my thing,” Sweeney wrote. “But I followed these directions down to a tee, and I’m not lying when I tell you it was one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. I almost couldn’t believe it.”
So the lesson of this story is … I guess it’s that if your flight is delayed, don’t get angry. Instead, consider that extra time as a chance to discover something new and wonderful, like turning lemons into lemonade, or turning curd and bacteria and the curdled milk from the stomach of an unweaned calf into something as mysterious and delicious as Gruyere.
McDonald said he now understands why players love Reid as much as they do, calling him “the most down to earth, genuinely nice NFL coach that I’ve met, besides Dan Quinn.” And he’s planning on making the now famous “recipe” himself this weekend. His grandma’s mac and cheese, though, will be tough to beat; McDonald grades it as a 9 out of 10 on his highly analytical mac and cheese grading scale.
“I don’t know what she puts in it though,” he said. “She’s never told me.”
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