Every family makes Maccaroni and Cheese a little bit differently. And each member of the family fixes the family recipe a bit differently.
Some cook it out-of-the-box and some cook it "out of the box." Some make it from scratch. Some use oddly shaped noodles. Some put in veggies and some put in meat. Some put in extra cheese. A few put in hot sauce. Some sprinkle on parsley or offer it as an optional side. Some eat it as is.
Among the veggie adders, one may encounter the advocates of brocculi, carrots, peas, tomatoes, and stranger animals. Among the meat includers one might meet mixers-in of hot dogs, sausage, ham, or weirder substances. And the advocates of cheese besprinkle the mac with breeds as various as the possibilities of that fungal growth.
Those are more of the purist cooks. Then you get the ones who like to experiment and mix. The ones who throw in all the leftovers from the fridge and hope no one notices the incompatible tastes. Or the ones who change the recipe every week, startling the tastebuds into a sort of annoyance.
But even this is still Maccaroni and Cheese.
There are still the noodles and there is still the cheese. Other little practices more or less compatible with the noodles and cheese may be added, but the basis of the Maccaroni and Cheese remains the same.
It's when the cooks start forget about the noodles and the cheese that the eater of Maccaroni and Cheese should get nervous. When the dish becomes more about how many colors of veggies can be fit into it, or how many leftovers can be used up in the process, or how different it can taste from Mrs. X's maccaroni and cheese, the eater fights an urge to panic and go back to plain noodles and cheese - no embellishments.
I like fried perch - but please don't put it in my Maccaroni and Cheese. Hot dog chunks, in the right proportion and right context, can serve and bring out the flavor of the cheese and texture of the noodles, but not always. Sometimes the hot dogs can distract from the dish itself. Even brocculi in the wrong amount, or cooked incorrectly, can simply deter a child from eating and enjoying his Maccaroni and Cheese. Something about the stringy green against the yellow disgusts him - he just can't bring himself to put a spoonful in his mouth. Brocculi, most often a wonderful addition to any dish of Maccaroni and Cheese, has become a stumbling block keeping the child from eating his dinner, or enjoying it if he does taste it.
Embelishments are supposed to enhance the eating of the Maccaroni and Cheese. Where they don't, oughtn't they be left out or introduced gradually, so that the eater's tongue may come to find them palatable?
On the other hand, noodles and cheese cannot be disposed of and ought to be of the finest quality if they can be had. If one were to make Maccaroni and Cheese without noodles or cheese, it would cease to be the dish it was meant to be. Elbow maccaroni is good, but bowties set off the dish as a work of genuine art-cookery. Processed Cheese-Food is satisfactory and suitable for simple lunches, but genuine Cheddar suggests an entree of special quality and excellence for an occasion of the same.
Am I going crazy? If not, what have I forgotten in this nice little comparison?