It was college and there was a boy I liked. We'd stood around at parties together for almost three months, neither of us daring to make a move. I wasn't even sure if he liked me. Now it was November and I was getting impatient. Suddenly I had a brainstorm: I'd throw a Thanksgiving dinner, getting him into my house and impressing him with my cooking skills. One problem? I'd never cooked before. I hadn't even ever shopped for food. But Thanksgiving's easy, right?
Not as easy as the simple meal would have you think. At dawn the morning of the party I stood in the kitchen of my off-campus apartment perplexed about how to turn this mountain of food into something edible when I heard a scream from the bathroom. It was my bleary-eyed, pre-caffieinated roommate. I'd forgotten about the turkey I'd left to defrost in the shower overnight; the twenty-five pound blood-soaked behemoth looked like something straight out of a horror movie. It took two cups of dark roast, corrected with a few shots of bourbon, to calm her down and convince her to help me. Despite her input, and that bourbon, things only spiraled out of control from there (okay, well, maybe the bourbon had something to do with it). There were numerous phone calls to my mother — Do I put the stuffing in the turkey before I cook it, or after? How do I know when it's done? What's gravy made from? — and everything that could go wrong did. I learned that you never ever try to make mashed potatoes in a Cuinsinart (the blades slice through the starch and turn the potatoes into glue), that there's more to stuffing than just shoving the dry breadcrumbs into the turkey (you actually have to cook it first -- with celery and onions and stock) and what's in that funny paper package in the cavity of the turkey (giblets, which need a whole post unto themselves). This wasn't a crash course in cooking, it was more like a head-on collision. But I also learned why people like cooking: after a long day in the kitchen and a much-needed shower, there is nothing as satisfying as sitting around a table (even if it's made up of cardboard boxes draped with sheets), sharing a meal (that, after all that, turned out quite well) and lots of wine with friends.
Oh, and that boy? He finally made his move. He liked me. And my cooking.
Image: Abby Stone