This is a guest post from my friend, Marc, who has a creative side waiting to come out. He had an itch to write about a particular relationship in his life and I thought my blog would be the perfect forum for him. Enjoy!
Whether I like it or not, Annie’s Mac and Cheese is very much a metaphor that encapsulates my current state of affairs. To start from not-quite-the-beginning, I would characterize myself as a “momma’s boy”. At the very least, I am someone who was reliant on his mother during his formative years. As you might be able to guess due to the subject matter of this blog, I am speaking of course in terms of food. Hoping that she will never read this, I will admit to you all that my mother is not a world-famous chef. Nor was she a well-regarded chef within the walls of my childhood home. As a quick aside, I once ate actual dog food to get out of eating her homemade mac & cheese. But she was a cook. She was the cook. But as I grew older, I was forced to add the term “self-reliance” to my vernacular, and I suddenly had the daunting task of feeding myself.
There I stood in front of the stove, thirteen years old, paralyzed by fear and entombed in my own ineptitude. Would I starve? Should I call child protective services? Is this…legal? The knobs on the stove were Chinese to me and the copious buttons Greek. The modern-day rite of passage had finally come, and I was unsure that I had the tools to endure.
Not to spoil the ending, but I survived and did not wither away on the cold linoleum floor of my kitchen. For many years, when I was tasked with the task to end all tasks (cooking for myself), I relied on items found in the frozen food aisle. I was the Emeril Lagasse of chicken nuggets and the Gordon Ramsay of pizza bagels. Luckily for my cholesterol level and waistline, these tragic moments of self-reliance were generally relegated to weekends. I soldiered on throughout high school, adding new meals to my repertoire such as fish sticks and tater tots. I was the king of frozen breadcrumbs, and there was no stopping me now. Until college that is. Forced out of the nest and into Wake Forest University, one might think that I happily plugged in my eggbeaters and turned that knob to 11. In reality though, college was a regression of my already sparse skills. Freshman year I dined at the food hall and at campus delights such as Pizza Hut and Chick-fil-A (How I miss thee!). Once I had my own car on campus, I was able to feast at many of Winston-Salem’s finer establishments such as Cook-Out, Jimmy John’s, and Mellow Mushroom. I will never disparage the quality or the availability of cuisine at Wake Forest, but I will say that it did little for my desire to cook.
Caps are tossed in the air, flashbulbs go off, and suddenly I am a college graduate. I am an adult. At least that is what they tell me. With my diploma framed on the wall and my parents across the country in the mountains of Colorado, I stand in front of my big city apartment stove with not so much a desire to learn but an obligation. With a daunting rent payment every month, I could no longer afford to rely on the cooking of others at all times.
And that’s when I met her.
My sister introduced the two of us, urging me to expand my horizons and meet someone new. Annie and I have spent the past few years together and it has been nothing short of magical. She taught me how to boil water, to stir a pot, to mix ingredients — prime elements that would lay the foundation for my future in the kitchen. My dog food days were over and I had rediscovered my love for mac & cheese.
“Garth, my sister’s puggle, keenly interested in my meal.”
I use Annie’s mac & cheese and my life in the kitchen as a not so subtle metaphor for the entirety of my current existence. I like to believe that I am on the right path, standing at the precipice of greatness. At 25 years old, I am not quite yet freaking out about my lack of cooking skills or where I am at in my professional career. Annie’s has shown me that I can do more than preheat an oven and place items on a cookie sheet. She has dared me to be great, to approach the world as bright-eyed and bushy-tailed as her mascot. I have torn open the purple and yellow Pandora’s Box and there’s no turning back now. Also, I love you Mom.
What meals first inspired you to try more and branch out in the kitchen?