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“$3.50, please.” I open up my worn wallet and fumble around for enough quarters, nickels, and dimes to pay for my Taco Bell burrito. I’m five cents short. A shake of my purse yields five lingering pennies, and my stomach and I sigh together in relief.
It wasn’t until I got my own job and my parents left me at home for a weekend that I realized I lacked a major life skill — cooking. I was so used to my mother preparing all my meals that when no one was home to answer my yells for a sandwich, I found myself helpless. Yes, I knew how to pull the lid off a Chef Boyardee can and make a packet of Ramen noodles, but cook a meal with actual ingredients? Nope — the closest I got to food was a slimy, congealed quesadilla that not even my dogs dared to eat. So I decided it wasn’t worth the effort, and ordered a pizza. That was all fine (and the pizza was amazing), but after three days of eating every meal out I discovered that my money had performed a disappearing act. I was left with only enough coins to buy Taco Bell. Thank goodness Mom and Dad saved the day by coming home from their trip and serving me a home-cooked meal. I realized that, if they had stayed just a day longer, I would have been awfully hungry.
So, what must I do before I graduate high school and go on to college? Learn how to cook a real meal. Once I leave home, I will say goodbye to Mom’s home cooking; if I can’t even survive a three-day weekend of eating out, imagine what I would do for an entire school year. No, it’s time I grew up and taught myself how to scramble eggs, bake meatloaf, and for goodness sake make toast without burning it. I was a little too ambitious when I first came to this realization, and bought myself a Julia Child cookbook, but I’m proud to say that after failed attempts at souffles and many pots of ruined sauce, I can now cook the simpler pasta dishes and make a mean quesadilla.
And this will pay off in college. Yes, at one point I’ll be on a meal plan and stuff myself with food from four different stations in the dining hall, but this luxury won’t last forever. Someday I’ll go off this dining plan, or move into an apartment with a kitchenette, and I’m going to have to stock a fridge and prepare my own food. When I go to the supermarket and stare at the case of meat and the stacks of produce, I don’t want to just see beef and carrots — I want to see a steaming slice of meatloaf, made by me.
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