The Connection. A good section of Just My Type is devoted to how Helvetica took over the font world. It isn’t the fanciest typeface around (a trait it shares with my Mac & Cheese), but it has been doing a hard job well for years, trying to single-handedly represent restaurants, movie posters, books, Microsoft Word (in the guise of Arial—see if you can tell the difference) without pissing anyone off. I felt kind of guilty that I hadn’t known anything about Helvetica before (“So that’s the font I see everywhere! And I’ve never even stopped to ask its name.”), so I thought I’d honor this sturdy, hardworking Swiss font with some good, honest Swiss fare.
I’ll admit that it’s not a very pretty dinner, and it doesn’t photograph particularly well, but it is a yummy, cheesy, salty, sweet comfort food that feels like an old friend you never knew you had. Plus, it’s easy to make.
Aelplermagronen (Swiss Mac & Cheese with Apples and Onion Rings)
The Mac & Cheese (Aelplermagronen)
7–8 waxy or fingerling potatoes, chopped into small chunks
1/2 lb. macaroni
4 cups water, with 1 tablespoon salt
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
2 1/2 cups Gruyère and/or Emmentaler
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large saucepan, bring the salted water to a boil.
Add the potatoes and boil for 5 minutes. Toss in the macaroni and cook until al dente (use instructions on box). At this point, most of the water should be absorbed (dump out excess water if you need to—you should have less than a cup left). Stir in the cream and nutmeg, and season to taste. Don’t be shy with the salt, this dish cries out for it.
In a 9X13 inch baking dish, layer half the macaroni, followed by a layer of cheese. Then layer in the rest of the macaroni, and top with the rest of the cheese.
Bake for 10 minutes until the cheese is melted and bubbling.
Easy Onion Rings
Unsalted butter for frying
2 large Vidalia onions, chopped into rings
2 tablespoons flour
In a large frying pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Combine the onion and the flour, and shake off excess flour. When the butter is hot, fry the onion rings for about 4 minutes until crispy. Set aside on a paper towel.
Easy Apple Sauce
7 Fuji apples (or another good cooking apple), quartered and peeled
3 teaspoons sugar
1 lemon, juice and zest
In a large saucepan, bring one cup of water to a boil. Add the apples, sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest (a pinch of salt and a teaspoon of cinnamon are option), and boil until apples are soft. Strain through a sieve, and set aside to cool.
Serve the Mac & Cheese hot, covered in onion rings with a side of apple sauce.
Note: If you want to save time, buy the applesauce. It’s easy to make, but it’s not necessarily worth it in terms of time, price, and flavor. If you want to add time (and awesomeness), bread the onion by dipping it in buttermilk before coating in flour.
“One thing was for sure: no one wanted a repeat of Christopher Barker’s Bible of 1631, which omitted the negative from the seventh commandment so that it read, ‘Thou shalt commit adultery.”
Who should read it. Anyone with an interest in design, printing, advertising, logos, modern history, or, obviously, typography. Even a budding interest will do. True type geeks may not be very engaged, but the book was not written for them: it’s for the intrigued but uninitiated.
Why I liked it. I’ve always been tempted to pretend that I know more about typography than I do because I like design and writing but, knowing that it’s a very geeky and vast subject. Before I picked up this book, I was vaguely aware of the Ban Comic Sans movement, and I knew that the Gutenberg was printed in a Gothic serif-as-all-heck font, but I didn’t know what it was. I also had no idea where the expression “mind your Ps & Qs” came from (the book’s explanation is that, back when individual letter press stamps were kept in drawers, it was easy to confuse the lower case tailed “p” and “q”), or that Steve Jobs is credited with introducing font choice for personal computers, or even how common knowledge about fonts has skyrocketed over the last few decades, which probably has a lot to do with the availability of font choices on computers. I certainly knew little to nothing about the history of typefaces, what different types were designed for, and who their designers were.
Just My Type is a highly enjoyable read, even if you don’t yet know the difference between serif and sans serif. The anecdotes are clever, the writing is good, and the subject has been sorely in need of an introduction like this for some time.