Yet another summer is gone and I have finally finished unpacking the enormous amount of stuff I brought with me this year. This being my third year in college, I am well acclimated to the way college works and what kind of stuff one needs to bring.
However, this semester has given me an expected, but still equally daunting hurdle: I actually have to feed myself. For all those students living off-campus or in The Village, like I am, menu planning, grocery shopping and cooking are three things I previously never had to think about. What is for dinner tonight? Check the colorful menu hanging from the door provided by one’s dining hall of choice. No choice, but no worries. There’ll be something good, I tell myself.
As someone who loves to cook, I’ve welcomed the challenge with open arms. It’ll finally allow me to cook what I want, when I want it, and how I want it cooked. My burgers can now be medium-rare and my steak thicker than a half-inch, both of which were seemingly impossible to obtain at any dining hall. Not their fault per se, but my gripe persists. I could make some Thai or Indian food; two of my favorites that I never got to have at the dining hall. Man, this is going to be perfect.
But as I unpack the cookware, plates and silverware into the cabinets of my house, I realize there is no longer a paper menu telling me what I will eat three meals a day. While I will no longer have to wait until a Sunday night to have chicken fingers and quesadillas, I will now have to cook said chicken fingers and quesadillas on my own.
As I scour the Price Chopper flyer to see what’s on sale for the week, reality hits me. My mother isn’t waiting for me to get back home from school to make me a snack, or make me dinner when my homework is done. When I gather my friends to go to dinner, it’s no longer to head downstairs to the dining hall, but to the sink to help clean up the dishes. The dishes that had food on them, food that I made. No longer food I made because I enjoy cooking, but food I made because we needed to eat. While I still enjoy cooking just as much as I did before, I had never depended on it as much as I do now.
At my house, I would always help my mother out with dinner if she was busy or away. At most, this was only once or twice a week. Now, the roles have been flipped. I oh-so-graciously volunteered to cook the dinners for my house of six, deciding I’d rather cook the meal than clean up after it. But now it is I looking for the one or two nights off a week I gave my mother. Tired after a busy day, my shirt littered with flour from the eggplant parmesan I just prepared, I now understand what my mother went through.
But for all those now cringing with fear, or driving to the supermarket to buy a case of Ramen noodles, worry not. Despite having to plan, shop and cook all my own food, I regret none of it. Think of cooking as therapy and the stress just melts away; at least until your picky-eater friend insists he won’t eat the corn you just prepared, or your vegetarian friend reminding you that he isn’t too fond of your idea to have chicken for dinner tomorrow. The hurdles have already come and I’ve cleared them all, but there are even more on the horizon. It’s only the first week after all.