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Beethoven's Mac & Cheese

Date: 12/28/2011

As we embark on this journey into Beethoven’s late period, I’d like to introduce to you (or reintroduce for some) one of the most well-known Beethoven fans out there: Schroeder. Yes, Schroeder, from the Peanuts cartoon. Charlie Brown’s best friend and Lucy Van Pelt’s unrequited love interest, Schroeder is commonly seen playing the piano. And his idol is none other than Beethoven.

Peanuts creator Charles Schulz pored over many Beethoven biographies and embedded facts about the composer throughout his comic strips. From his first appearance in 1951, Schroeder loves to listen to Charlie Brown read him Beethoven biographies (rather than fairy tales). A running joke in several of the comic strips focuses on Schroeder’s belief that Beethoven is still alive (much like many an Elvis fan). In one comic strip it is revealed that Schroeder lives at 1770 James Street (1770 being Beethoven’s birth year). Every year, Schroeder marks December 16th on the calendar, in honor of Beethoven’s birthday; once, Schroeder forgot Beethoven’s birthday and he was in shock. Of course, determined to emulate his idol in every way, including Beethoven’s lifelong bachelorhood, Schroeder rebuffs Lucy’s romantic advances. However, one time (and the only time) Schroeder kissed Lucy (on the cheek, of course!) when Lucy gave him a cupcake on Beethoven’s birthday.

In honor of Schroeder's passion for Beethoven, the Charles M. Schulz Museum (Santa Rosa) and the Ira F. Brilliant Center for Beethoven Studies announced the launching in December 2009 of a permanent online exhibit of 60 of the 300 Schulz's cartoons that involve Schroeder and Beethoven: "Schulz's Beethoven, Schroeder's Muse." You can visit the online exhibit here.

One curious thing I found from this exhibit was a recipe for Beethoven’s macaroni and cheese. According to Anton Schindler’s biography of Beethoven, one of the composer’s favorite dishes was macaroni and cheese. In the original German text, the dish is called "Macaroni mit Parmesan-Käse." When Beethoven was in the middle of one of his marathon composing sessions, he ordered his housekeepers not to disturb him with such trivialities as food and told them to leave his supper in the room for him to eat whenever he finished. Macaroni with Parmesan cheese was expensive in Beethoven’s day. Macaroni cost three times more than rice, and Parmesan cheese had to be imported from Italy.

Click here to read on for the recipe.

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