Years ago, after completing my undergraduate degree, I moved to the East Coast to begin a masters program. I got a full-time job at the university where I had enrolled in order to cut back on tuition costs, and I signed up for classes part-time. (I had refused to take out more student loans and was figuring out the financials for myself.)
When I made the move out east, mom went with me and did her gracious parental thing by taking me to Wal-Mart where she bought the essentials for my apartment. She loves me lots. Plus, she could make the 15-hour drive back home knowing that her daughter was settled in to her new place. Oh yeah, and she knew I was broke. Regardless of her motivation for helping me get settled, thanks mom! And back home she went. Even with my mother’s generosity, in one move I went from poor to poorer and was faced with the stark realization that:
Eating out was a luxury I couldn’t afford, so I reserved doing so for when we would go out for lunch as an office. Our most common lunch stop was at a local Mexican restaurant where white sauce somewhat akin to ranch dressing (I never did find out what it was) along with chips and salsa were served complimentary. (Insert happy dance.) I’d order an ice water and two tacos and could get out of there tip included for $5. Not too shabby, especially considering it was a “sit down” meal and not fast food.
I was going to have to cook for myself – something that I didn’t like doing, wasn’t confident doing, and didn’t want to do. But a girl’s gotta eat, so I had to suck it up and figure it out. Spaghetti with tomato sauce and instant mashed potatoes, anyone? No? Well then how about Ramen and applesauce?
I had one box set of five pots/pans that a good friend bought for me as a housewarming gift of sorts. She had married young, had a small child at the time, and had more foresight regarding the realities of my move than did I. She handed the gift to me and said, “Showers should be thrown for people who are getting a place of their own for the first time.” How right she was. She hadn’t had to buy kitchen essentials for her first place because she got it all at her bridal shower. I wasn’t getting married any time soon, and I hadn’t needed any pots or pans up to that point because my college roommates had them. What did I have? My mom’s old camping silverware, my great-aunt’s coffee maker, and the toaster from my grandparent’s travel trailer, all of which were decades older than me and, for the most part, were in perfect working condition. Well, okay, so the toaster was a little feisty. I had to be quick on the rebound otherwise the toast would shoot out and land on the floor. Five second rule, amiright?
I had no cooking utensils. About a month into the move I was at Walgreens checking out the dollar section to see what goodies I could find when, Jackpot! They had slotted spoons! And spatulas! FOR A DOLLAR EACH!!! It was time. I was ready to step up my culinary game with some grown-up utensils. “Maybe they’ll make my food taste better,” I thought as I tossed my finds into the shopping cart. Doubtful, my snarky side responded.
When I got home, I removed the tie-twists that secured the utensils to their cardboard with the same delicacy used when handling fine china. Okay, so they weren’t fine china, but they were Made In China. That counts for something, right? Yep, it sure does – typos. In an uncharacteristic move I read the cardboard label to which my slotted spoon had been affixed and was rewarded for doing so when I read the very last line of the description.
Incase you’re reading this from your smartphone and have to squint and pull the phone back really far to see the text, here is what the image says: “The rubber handle kitchenware collection has been designed with the needs of today’s cooking lifestyles in mind. The ultimate in comfort, styling, and durability combined with the practicality of easy care and use home cooking has never felt good. Bon Appetite.” (Italicized for emphasis.)
I’m certain what they meant was, “Home cooking has never felt better.” Whoops! And high-five. Because, translation error though it may have been, it was my exact sentiment at the time.
Ten years later and that spoon is long gone. I found its cardboard counterpart recently triggering all of these memories. My once “fancy” utensils didn’t make me a better cook nor, as my snarky side predicted, did they make my food taste any better. But cooking became a little more enjoyable despite the card’s literal message (and because of it). With that spoon I served myself inexpensive, processed food with a side of laughter every single time.
Categories: Odes To Joy