One Barnard Sophomore’s first real venture into cooking.

Last week, I endeavored to cook a simple spaghetti for myself. As a sophomore living in a suite with access to a kitchen, I’d been meaning to make something that takes more than three steps, and Monday (the day where I only have one class) seemed to be the perfect opportunity.

While I knew that I had never actually cooked something that would constitute “a meal” from beginning to end, I was counting on knowledge accumulated from hours spent watching my mother cook followed by her saying “Okay, now you know how to make it right?” because she didn’t trust me with anything other than peeling garlic or cutting tomatoes throughout the process. I was so trusting of this knowledge that I completely disregarded the thought that maybe I should at least look up a recipe beforehand, alongside the memory of a Florence Pugh cooking video where she says making a few mistakes is “where the best cooking comes from”. Florence, if you’re reading this, I love you, and PLEASE bring back the “Cooking with Flo” series on your Instagram. 

Things started out well (I think? I still haven’t looked up how you’re actually supposed to make spaghetti). I grabbed my box of angel hair spaghetti, my little tub of tomato sauce, and after careful consideration, an onion and mushroom. There was some logic to this: I purposefully kept it simple seeing as it was my first solo cooking venture. Now here’s where things start to go awry—at the literal first step. I poured about a cup of tomato sauce into a small pan on medium heat, then after panicking about what to do next, I chopped up the mushroom and chucked the bits into the sauce.

Immediately, I realized I probably should’ve started cooking the onion first or at least the mushroom before putting it in the sauce, but alas—I’d gone too far to back out now. After accepting that there were just going to be raw mushrooms in the sauce, I quickly cut some haphazard slices of onion and threw them into a pan. After tossing it around for around five minutes, I remembered how long it had been since I had cooked onions (for reference, I have a notoriously terrible memory… which might explain this entire article). I also remembered that onions actually take quite a while to caramelize, definitely too long for the sauce to stay in the pot (and at that point it was boiling).

Feeling a sense of defeat, I turned the fire under the sauce off and waited for the onions to caramelize. The rest of the process was comparatively less dramatic, and I boiled the noodles and finished the rest without any more disasters (this probably would’ve been too embarrassing to publish if I somehow messed up boiling noodles). I zhuzhed up the mushrooms and onions on top of the noodles and sprinkled some cheese to make it look presentable for a photo for my mom—one that I still haven’t sent for some reason. 

Making this spaghetti felt like an “event” in my life in the way that quickly whipping up ramen or mixed rice hasn’t. Maybe it’s because it’s the first real meal I’ve cooked since becoming a college student, another step into adulthood that I feel wholly unready to take. Another reason to call home and ask for help, another reason to miss the familiar smell of my mom’s cooking and warmth. This simple taste of freedom beckons the fear that I’m really not ready to be an adult, but college is full of mistakes; mistakes I can learn from and immortalize in Bwog articles. And at least now I know you should start cooking the onions first before adding the tomato sauce. Or at least I think that’s what you’re supposed to do; I still refuse to look it up.

Self-portrait via author