missing cooking while on meal plan
This advice came from a boy I knew for two weeks in July of 2015, a boy from Wisconsin I haven’t talked to since and who, really, I only knew through his roommate. Complicated relationships aside, his pithy lesson has stuck with me, and I still look warily at the industrial trays of scrambled eggs at the Ratty before choosing potatoes instead. There’s something weird about college eggs, and it’s not the fact that they’re probably made from powdered egg concentrate rather than cracked from baskets of ivory-shelled orbs. They’re strange because, to me, they’re a home food, the kind my dad will eat at any time of day with two slices of toast and raspberry jam. The kind my brother insists on separating, yolk from white, and shoveling down in the five-minute interval between tumbling downstairs and driving to school. Eggs are the type of food made in my kitchen in Illinois, with a large, yellow dog sniffing my pajama leg and my mom flipping pancakes on the next burner over.
Here at Brown, food means something different to me. Breakfast is a meal I make on my dorm room floor, with boiling water from a tea kettle and a plastic spoon. Lunch is something I grab between classes and usually eat in my room, browsing Facebook instead of studying like I told myself I would when I decided to get it to-go. Dinner can be anything, but on weekdays it usually means a trip to the Ratty or the Blue Room and the hope that I’ve coordinated the time well enough to meet up with a friend. Mealtimes involve dumping readily prepared foods onto a plate, shuffling through lines, and, for a relatively picky eater like me, throwing caution to the wind and gambling that I’ll like whatever is on offer. And it’s fine, truly. I eat, I sometimes enjoy it, I move on. It’s not bad—it’s just different.
What I really miss is cooking. I miss lining vegetables up on the counter, chopping them, and throwing them into a frying pan. I miss browsing recipe blogs and deciding on a whim to bake cookies on a Saturday afternoon. I’ve spent far too many evenings, huddled under my comforter, adding cookbooks to my Amazon wishlist and watching clips from Nigella Bites or Barefoot Contessa on YouTube. Okay, that last bit is probably a bit weird, I’ll admit, but there’s something special about cooking that never occurred to me when I did it everyday. I think it has to do with creation, choosing the individual components of a dish and dicing, stewing, and glazing them into a finished product.
It feels great to share that end result. That’s probably my favorite kind of cooking, the kind I can split with friends and family. But I also like cooking on my own, with a new album playing in the background, and eating that bowl of pasta in front of a movie while the rest of the family is out for the evening. It’s the kind of cooking I don’t do here, and it’s the kind I miss most.
When I went home for Thanksgiving two weeks ago, as usual, I was on pie duty. I spent Thursday morning stirring fillings and spilling sugar and smearing flour on my shirt, but I was happy doing it, so purely full of joy. Regardless of how tense dinner table conversations got, by the time dessert rolled around, I knew there would be comfort to be found in pie. For me, there always is.