Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Chefs

Ever since I reached the age of independence several years ago, I have shared a lot of meals. Most of these meals were from boxes. And over the course of that time, I have found that single people, particularly the college sort, revel in the idea that they are some cooking guru when it comes to making boxed foods. 

So it goes like this: I will be standing beside the stove, leaning on the fridge and waiting for water to boil. Cardboard box in hand, I stand ready to pour the mac and cheese noodles within into the water as soon as it hits boiling point. As I raise the box to pour, whichever individual (be they visitor oroommate) that I happen to be sharing with steps up from behind.
"Oh, let me do it! I make the best mac and cheese." They say with confident assurance

I blink at them incredulously and say "It's in a box..." 

"No, really, trust me. Everybody says so," they insist, proud and sincere. I shrug and hand over the box to them where they step forward and proceed to make this odd show of preparing the boxed macaroni. They sweep around the kitchen like they're being filmed for a cooking show, grabbing spoons to stir and artfully draining the water off to prep the pasta for its sauce. Finally it comes down to the moment of truth. I watch from the counter where I've been leaning this whole time to see what sorcery they might be working there. They stir the butter in, waiting the exact amount of time for optimum melting before adding the cheese powder, which they mix slowly and carefully. Then they add the milk. This must be where the magic happens, because, there's always an overly fancy flourish of the milk jug and a few more quick stirs, and then it is declared to be done. 

I continue to stare at them as I take my bowl of entirely normal tasting mac and cheese and begin to eat as they watch, smiling happily and ask "See? Isn't that the best?"

This has happened more than once. And each time it is exactly the same as a normal recipe with the one exception being the roommate who enhanced her mac and cheese with sliced hot dogs and what I think might have been copious amounts of cayenne pepper (looking at you, Heather.)

I think this happens because the norm for any group of single adults is inability to cook (or lack of motivation, which evens out to about the same thing,) so everybody is clamoring to distinguish themselves as the one friend who can cook. While it's usually not true for the interceptors of boxed meals (except maybe in the case of Heather, who, apart from the mac and cheese, kept me from starving for a good two months,) it is important for those who truly believe their mac and cheese is somehow better than everybody else's. 

I am often tempted to shoot those people down when they look at me so earnestly and ask if their boxed mac and cheese isn't the best thing I've ever tasted. I could be sarcastic. I'm good at that. I could look at them and say "Wow, Chef Boyardee! You certainly are the best adder of milk and cheese powder to noodles that I ever did see!" I could say that, but I don't. This person is single and as of yet unsure of what they want to be in life. They are lost and desperate for attention, just like me. This is all they have. And so instead I just look up at them and smile and say. 


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