One of my favorite photos of me as a child was taken in the kitchen of the house I was born in — I’m standing at a cabinet that’s taller than me, unopened packages of pasta strewn on the floor, wearing a red onesie that says “Moose!” that was later passed down to both of my sisters.
Perhaps this is where it started.
Or maybe it was at my grandma’s house when my entire family gathered together with my great-grandmother to make gnocchi from scratch, where we neatly laid out handmade, bite-sized pasta in rows on the floured-down kitchen counter and, when we ran out of space, on cookie sheets that covered the dining table, every shelf in the living room and monopolized most of the couch.
With all of the seating occupied, my family milled about the kitchen, watching as my Nana taught my cousins and me how to roll the gnocchi.
Perhaps it was my family Thanksgivings — or, rather, the day before Thanksgiving — when I would wake up early to help my mom start peeling potatoes and cutting green beans. My grandma would come over to help, and we spent hours upon hours making cornbread and stuffing and finished with a cherry pie that didn’t come out of the oven until hours after midnight. It’s still one of my favorite family traditions.
I don’t know if there’s a specific moment when I realized the extent of my love for cooking; it’s something that has overtaken my life for as long as I can remember. If you eat three meals a day, that’s over a thousand a year; so in my twenty years of living, I can confidently say I’ve eaten a lot of meals — most good, a few bad and some excellent.
As a child, I always helped my mom in the kitchen, whether it was cutting vegetables or stirring something or opening the fridge for her because she had raw chicken on her hands, but I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t take my mom’s cooking for granted.
My first semester of college, that all changed. I went from eating the delicious food my mom cooked to receiving pictures of it and crying to my mom on the phone about pasta so mushy it fell apart, garlic bread with raisins in it and the other horrors that the dining hall brought.
This year, I was blessed with a tiny but lovely kitchen that I share with my roommates, and I could not wait to use it. The first thing I cooked was linguini with clam sauce — a simple dish that I’d made many times before. It was supposed to be an easy and quick dinner with my roommates to celebrate moving in together, but it was a complete disaster.
I couldn’t get the water to boil on our tiny, electric stove, and we didn’t have a can opener so we attempted to open the cans of clams with a knife, which resulted in clam juice all over the walls of our kitchen.
It has never been more difficult to cook a meal, but this was easily one of the most memorable ones I’ve ever made. I will never forget the insane circumstances and laughter that my best friends and I shared that night.
Maybe this was the moment I realized why I loved cooking: throughout my whole life cooking has brought people together. Whether it be coming home from soccer practice to lentil soup with my mom, huge family dinners where everyone talked over each other or a night with my roommates where we cook together to celebrate the end of the week, cooking has been a constant in my life.
As I’ve grown older I’ve realized that it’s less about the food and more about the people you make it with.
Molly Green is a sophomore from Orange County, Calif. studying Writing Seminars.