Dan here. These days I feel pretty comfortable in the kitchen. I know what all of the appliances do and where they are located. I know how to cut up a wide variety of different kinds of vegetables, and I know what parts are edible and what are not. I can roast, saute, blanch, boil, or bake with relative ease. However, this was not always the case. Today I’d like to take you on a trip down memory lane to a time when cooking was not as easy.
The year was 2000, and I was just getting ready to start my freshman year in college. Up to this point, I had mastered a couple of kitchen appliances, and I was feeling pretty good about myself. I could work the toaster like nobody’s business, and I knew the exact setting I needed to get my Eggo waffles to come out perfectly browned. I was also master of the microwave, although it tended to leave my reheated pizza a little bit chewy. And when it came to heating up frozen foods, like chicken nuggets or popcorn shrimp, I was second to none in my operation of the oven.
However, with my first year away from home quickly approaching, I decided it was time to expand my horizons a bit. I figured out that there was this thing above the oven called a “stove top” that had “burners” on it, and you could place pots filled with things on top of the burners to heat them up. Armed with this knowledge, I set out to make spaghetti.
First off, I filled a pot with water and turned on the burner. Then, while I waited for the water to boil, I turned my attention to the sauce. I encountered some momentary difficulties when I wasn’t able to remove the lid from the jar. However, with some additional force, the lid came free, and I dumped the contents of the jar into a pot. A few minutes later, when the sauce started to spatter a bit, I knew it was warm enough to eat. Success!
I now turned my attention back to the pot of water. I realized that despite having been alive for 18 years, I had never actually seen boiling water, and I wasn’t quite sure what it looked like. I saw some streams of bubbles rising briskly from the bottom of the pot to the surface and decided that was good enough. I tossed the spaghetti in and began to stir.
Now I couldn’t be bothered to read package directions, so I didn’t just set a timer and let the spaghetti cook. Instead, I knew the the texture spaghetti was supposed to have on my plate, and as I stirred, I looked at it occasionally to see if it was getting limp enough. After awhile, I decided that it looked about right and drained the water out of the pot.
When I sat down to eat, I realized that I had made a mistake somewhere in the process. I typically like my pasta al dente, but this was more like eating spaghetti crackers. And since I had already topped the pasta with the sauce, I could not go back and cook the spaghetti any further. As I crunched my way through it, I silently cursed myself for trying to cook and counted myself fortunate that college had dining halls. I would eventually figure out how to cook spaghetti properly, and later I even figured out scrambled eggs, but the memory of my pasta predicament made me hesitant to try anything new.