I made the smoke alarm go off in my apartment today. I was just making dinner. No, nothing was burning. It all turned out delicious, in fact. That was the most confusing part, and it reminded me how much I have to learn about the culinary arts-- starting with how in the heck one turns off a smoke detector.
I was home Monday for a long Labor Day weekend and my baby sister cooked part of our lunch. The noodles part, to be exact. My "baby" sister is 11 years old. I call her Boo-Boo. Boo, for short. Her other nicknames include Meg, Doodle and Baby (the family joke is that she'll be 37 and drinking sweet tea, straight out of a Faulkner novel, still being called "Baby").
The point is, she was cooking. Noodles. Not very hard, but it impressed me. I burned noodles when I was her age. She just let the water boil over.
The first time I cooked by myself, I made cookies. By age 11, our family had bloated to 8, so I doubled the batch because I was positive the cookies were going to be so delicious that my huge family would devour them all. I wanted them to have lots of cookies to eat, not just one or two to taste. Here's what happened instead: I did double the recipe, except for one ingredient. I forgot whether I had added this certain ingredient, so I added it again.
Bad move. The ingredient was baking soda. The cookies tasted like tin foil. I was heartbroken, to say the least, and my family still brings it up, 11 years later. Thanks, guys.
In my defense, I've vastly improved since my first cooking venture. My specialty is grilled cheese. I kid you not. My aforementioned baby sister actually requested Julie's Grilled Cheese for her birthday dinner a few years ago. In grade school, I got really good at desserts, like Lemon Squares. High school marked a high for learning lots of foods like pasta because I was running nearly every day. Last summer in D.C., I ventured into cooking meat and fish with olive oil. I also made a divine peach and blueberry cobbler from scratch.
My second defense is this: I've never really had to cook. Dinner was ready for me when I got home every night from practice in high school. I was on the meal plan at college. In D.C., my meals wavered from raisins to pb&j sandwiches. I didn't eat out all the time, but I ate much more on the go. There was hardly time to actually cook for myself besides Sunday, which is when I would cook for the week. A few of my closest friends from college were in D.C. that summer, as well as a couple GW and CN friends, and the handful of people I randomly met and befriended. Dinner plans were always in order; and if not dinner, then drinking, and that is always rather filling.
I have to admit: D.C. lulled me into a false sense of security about meeting people after college. I met people all the time out East. I was hardly wanting for plans, particularly dinner plans. Eating is an individual activity, but it's so much better with others. Eating alone, as I do most nights here, is almost pointless. I don't mind it--crave the alone time now, honestly--but it is a dull activity to make dinner for one's self. I'd rather be feeding others than cooking for one.
As VP of the I Love Food Club* for the past 12+ years, I say (off-the-record, mind you) that food is overrated. I don't particularly enjoy eating. I like that it gives me nutrition for my body to function well, and I love the taste of whatever I am enjoying, but the physical act of eating? Eh. One does not give a dinner party just to feed the participants. One, however, does it to invite over friends for excellent conversation and the enjoyment of the amiable company, and perhaps even the anticipation and fun of cleaning and dressing up one's dining area. The food is an important part too, but one does not look forward to eating. One looks forward to the time spent.
Unless, of course, you're an orphan in Oliver Twist:
I'm moving home later this month and the food aspect of the move is exciting; that is, I am excited to eat with the family again. We have family dinner every night, where we say grace and everyone goes around the table highlighting their day. It may sound mundane, but I simply can't wait. It was great eating with people in college, where meals really helped cultivate community, but that is not here. Not having to shop for groceries will be nice too!
In the meantime, I enjoy the freedom to eat when and what I please, read my New Yorker book of food reviews, and will try to avoid setting off the smoke alarm again before I move-- but no promises!
*The I Love Food Club was established by my cousin Sarah (President) and sister Kato (Secretary/ Treasurer) when we were very small. I don't remember the date, but definitely early 1990s. We recently initiated in two new members: my mom and Sarah's sister's son Stetson, who has the chubbiest and cutest cheeks. We are currently accepting applications, but the waiting list is long.