As part of Food Summit 2010, held in November, FoodBlogSouth and Desert Island Supply Co. hosted a Food Stories storytelling event. Based on the Moth radio program, the event brought storytellers together to share food-oriented tales, told in an open-mic type setting. Since the inaugural FoodBlogSouth was held this weekend, I thought it time to share the tale I told during Birmingham’s first Food Stories event.
Though I don’t fit neatly as part of Gen X (I’m barely too young) or the Millennials (I’m too–well, too lots of things!), I’m comfortable as part of the instant generation. I grew up on instant oatmeal and mashed potatoes. I thought I hated grits until I was in my 20s, when I discovered that they’re excellent when cooked on a stove top instead of being served from a packet. My mom’s a great cook, but when you come home from work and have four kids and a husband to feed, you’ve just got to get food on the table.
And so I began college with little kitchen know-how. That translated into many meals of Pasta Roni, cooked in my dorm room microwave, and the occasional splurge on George Foreman Grill-cooked steak. We didn’t even have a kitchen on our floor, so cooking on a stove top was nearly unheard of.
But I’d heard that the way to a man’s heart was through his stomach. And so, when my crush and his roommate came to visit, I decided it was a good excuse to venture down to the basement’s kitchen. I rushed to pretty myself up, leaving little time to bake Pillsbury biscuits (which I thought were surely the way to impress an 18-year-old boy. I don’t know what got into me). So I prematurely pulled the biscuits from the oven, then rushed to the dorm’s lobby to meet my friends. “No one will notice if they’re not quite ready,” I thought.
I thought wrong.
Teenage boys aren’t the most gracious people, and the undercooked biscuits became a game instead of a snack. The dorm’s elevator doors opened every time the elevator returned to the first floor, as though a phantom Dorman Hall resident were waiting for a ride to her room. The guys decided to take aim as the doors opened, and my undercooked biscuits became flying biscuits as they sailed into the waiting elevator.
We joked about elevator food for years, but as college progressed my culinary skills improved. My roommates and I hosted many dinner parties where we tested out recipes we found in Southern Living and Better Homes and Gardens, sometimes inviting the same two guys to taste how far our cooking had come. I baked, decorated and hand-delivered Christmas cookies to everyone I knew (leading me to swear off making 300-plus cookies in a single night ever again). I exchanged food for labor every time I moved, and I was still determined that my cooking would eventually snag the attention of whichever boy I was currently interested in. (Because teenage and 20-something boys are just out to date their moms, right?)
When Sex and the City creator Candace Bushnell visited my college campus, a friend was responsible for showing Bushnell around. Talk inevitably turned to relationships, and mine in particular. Bushnell’s advice: Tell her to stop cooking for men. She’s never going to get one that way. I laughed off that advice, but I did become more sensitive about my maternal instincts.
Nearly a decade later, I’m still single and still cooking. My kitchen is no longer filled with jarred pasta sauces and frozen meals, but instead canned tomatoes and loads of vegetables. And though I’m reluctant to cook for a man besides my best guy friend, I’m confident about one thing: Despite Candace Bushnell’s advice, my friends and I surely are eating well.