This is the year: I am determined to figure out how to make real food.
“Real food,” of course, means food that doesn’t come from cans or boxes. It’s made using individual ingredients that have to be mixed together. By hand. (Or, you know, by spoon.)
This wasn’t a new year’s resolution; I didn’t exactly make any. This was more of a semi-despairing life decision: Girl, you’re 22 years old, you should know how to feed yourself.
It shouldn’t be that hard, right? I’m not promising to invent fabulous new recipes or become a gourmet chef; I just want to eat a few meals a week that aren’t provided courtesy of Campbell’s or Kraft. Meals I can enjoy with pride rather than a vague sense of shame and immaturity.
Let’s face it, being able to cook seems like a basic skill to qualify for adulthood. Food is on the ground level of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. And sure, most of us can survive (even thrive) on frozen pizzas and “just add water” mixes, but there’s something about being able to cook from scratch that makes it seem like you’ve achieved the next level. Congratulations! You have crafted a delicious potato soup and may advance to the next round.
Due to some late-running meetings on Monday, I had an extra-long dinner break and decided to try out a friend’s recipe for banana-chocolate chip muffins. And let me tell you, they were delicious. They were so tasty that all I ate that night was carrots’n’dip and then a few (several) (too many) muffins — which, for the record, totally qualifies as a full meal. (All the major food groups, right? Grains, fruits, vegetables, chocolate…) I felt like I had officially checked off one of the requirements for true adulthood.
The sense of victory was somewhat short-lived when I remembered last week’s cooking adventures.
The plan was to make some grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner — a two-ingredient meal. Not that hard, right?
I managed to get distracted in the four minutes it takes to fry one side of the sandwich, only remembering my cooking attempts when I began to smell it. Melted cheese fused to the pan, blackened bread, a lingering smell of burning carbohydrates in the apartment —
Not to be defeated, I washed the pan and tried again… and became distracted, once again.
Two inedible sandwiches and a blackened outline shaped like a slice of bread permanently seared into my frying pan, and I gave up. I ate bread-and-cheese that evening. Finger food, right? The smoky smell only took a couple hours to waft out of my apartment.
So I’m not there yet. This whole “competent adult” thing is harder than it looks. I keep trying, and maybe someday I’ll have a success rate higher than 50 percent. The odds aren’t good enough to bet, but I’ve got my fingers crossed.
However, this regular failure when it comes to cooking has given me a solid comeback when it comes to kind friends, family and coworkers encouraging me to settle down.
“Do you know any nice men?” they ask. “Are you seeing anyone special?”
A boyfriend? I say. I can’t even keep track of a grilled cheese sandwich.