Mission Inedible


The tomato sauce would run like a rolling red, anti-oxidant river...

The spaghetti would twine like the flaxen hair of trumpeting angels...

The wine would flow like the vats of jolly Bacchus on a bender...

The garlic bread would crunch like Italian leather cowboy boots over a dry Sicilian riverbank.

This was the image my college friends and I projected the time we decided to cook ourselves a real spaghetti dinner in the dorms. When you're half-starved, having subsisted most of the year on ramen and Dr. Pepper, imagination can take you pretty far.

What imagination cannot do is conjure you actual things like pots, or pans, or a stove or utensils or bowls. Which, among our group of eight, hadn't been a priority.

I mean, speaking only for myself, I knew how to heat up a mean Chef Boyardee beef ravioli in my coffeemaker.

This should give you all a reasonable sense of the quality of things to come in this tale.

So in spite of no household equipment and very little money, the spirit of youth would not be deterred for our Spaghetti Extravaganza. This dream would not die.

We would improvis, we decided. We would MacGyver ourselves the best dinner we'd had in months!

We divided the tasks like an elite special ops team. My friend Austin and his roommates were in charge of ingredients for sauce. Upstairs, Ed had connections with wise and grizzled 21-year-olds; he'd snag the wine. Scoobie and I would round up some utensils. Dan would work out serving logistics and pasta. We pooled our money, and disippated like fog.

We reconnoitered later in Austin's dorm-room, dropping our supplies in the center for appraisal. Some bought. Some borrowed. Some smuggled from dining service through elaborate covert tactics and distraction techniques.

In moments, we had the first bowl of pasta bubbling away in the microwave in a lifted plastic bowl.

It would need to bubble there, we discovered, for the better half of the next semester.

But other problems also bubbled before us. Because it was as we started to assemble the sauce that we realized we only had one bowl to do everything in and we were already nuking in it. How would we heat the sauce if the first half of the pasta was still in it?

And while less ambitious people would have just used the styrofoam plates we'd invested in, we felt this lacked the glamor, the size, the sturdiness, and the, er, non-meltiness we required.

Then Dan got a lightbulb idea.

Er, rather, Dan noticed the ceiling fixture had kind of an... oh.... large glass bowl sort of shape to it.

And that's when the guys decided to climb up and use their light shade as the mother of all pasta platters.

Well, as the token girls in the group, Scoobie and I, we had our standards. We said:

"You can't use a light fixture that's been up there for years as a pasta bowl!!...

It's had bugs and dust and lead paint chips in it and who knows what else?!...


Blank faces. Crickets chirping.

"We have to wash it first."

So Scoobie and I went off to the dorm bathroom to give it a good scrub down and bring a little sanity and sanitation back into the festivities.

But by the time we returned-- the serving bowl chandlier removed of fly specks and 50 years of cigarette smoke-- there was another scent in the air. One of real home cooking!

Yes, after the pasta nuked for the better part of an hour and a half until it was glowing green and if not exactly al dente, at least alright-ish...

After the garlic bread popped hot out of the toaster slots and the oregano stopped flaming...

After the jar sauce was hot and thickened with bits of produce chopped with a plastic knife...

After all this... We sat down to dine.

Oh, as we passed the shaker cheese and Ed poured the box wine into Dixie cups, we sat on the floor of Austin and the guys' palacial manor dining room, we leaned back, sighed with weary contentment, and suddenly knew...

This was how The Other Half lived.

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13 comments:

C.B. Jones said...

It should be a requirement for all dorms to have a crock pot or something. a slow cooked meal is better than a haphazardly microwaved...anything.

Jenn Thorson said...

C.B.- At the time, we weren't even technically allowed to have microwaves in our dorms. The one we had there was illegal, but it had been smuggled in anyway.

My coffeemaker was also illegal. (Though I had it for survival purposes and would have duked it out with them over that.) :)

racheld said...

I do adore your spirit of creativity!!

May I claim kin? We had a metal popcorn popper---one of those which look like a big fondue pot, with a plug-in-bottom---and I was the most popular person in our dorm for three years, becuase I could FRY CHICKEN in it!!

Jenn Thorson said...

Rachel- You are now my hero. No wonder you were popular-- you were Queen of the Jiffy-Popped chicken! Who wouldn't love that? Brilliant!

jay said...

I never went to university/college (only on day-release). I was a depprived child, you know. Oh, for the joys of half-starvation and cooking in ceiling fixtures! My life has been blighted.

ROFL! Loved it. I almost felt I was there. But on balance, I'm glad I wasn't!

Tiggy said...

When I was at university, I lived in a house that had a washing machine. That worked. Yeah, I was that other half.

Jenn Thorson said...

Jay- (Snicker) "Except on day-release"... :) You know when you're well fed and full of wine, you pretty much don't care if you're eating out of a ceiling fixture. It's all in the perceptions. :)

Tiggy- Oooh, you fancy pants you! Of course, we probably would have just tried to cook a turkey in it or something. :)

chyna said...

We're not worthy, we're not worthy!!! I'm impressed Jenn, the best I had was bread sacks of smuggled Fruit Loops and Apple Jacks that I'd appropriated from the lunchroom. Tell ya what that cereal was the best food in the universe while in college.

Jenn Thorson said...

Chyna- Oh, it was absolutely possible to exist on sugar cereal for most of the semester. You smuggle what you can!

Leeuna said...

Why is it that anything cooked tastes so good when you're young and...er...starving? :D

ReformingGeek said...

I'm glad you had plenty of wine available.

My first cooking venture with a few friends started a little better because the hostess actually had pots and pans but it took FOREVER to get everything ready and we were Baptists then. We didn't drink alcohol. NO!!!! We never did it again....

Jenn Thorson said...

Leeuna- It's the starving part. Anything that's hot and not out of a vending machine was just glorious.

ReformingGeek- Oh, wow, you fancy pots and pans people. :) I'm jealous of your excellent supplies.

chyna said...

We felt special for having a vending machine that sold microwave popcorn and the microwave to pop them in. It was mass hysteria when the vending machine ran out.

Those were the days!