You Need Courage (to Make Food)

by Cara Dong '2023

“What do you want to eat for dinner?” 

Fiona, my roommate for a year, asked me for the third time that evening two weeks ago. I had no clue as always, just like how I was with almost everything in my life.

“I know what you are going to say.” She put a hand up like a stop sign and spoke again before I could respond with my usual answer. “‘Anything’, right?” Then we broke into laughter simultaneously.

It was our routine. Starting with her asking for my dinner advice and me giving her nothing. We decided to look for some fancy food in a takeout app and not waste the last day of discounts that we had. Not surprisingly, we failed. The reason was as simple as a one-digit addition and multiplication: one dinner each day for the seven days of the week plus several random lunches. How could there be anything left when almost all the restaurants near us available for takeout had been tried?

“You know what, why don’t we just make something for ourselves?” Fiona said a moment later, frustrated by the search. “It can’t be that hard, right? Our moms have been doing so for such a long time!” 

I didn’t know about her but honestly speaking, I didn’t dare to cook. My fear of the heat, of the fire (especially that of the stove), gives me the shivers anytime I think of the word “cooking”. Besides, neither of us had any experience with making food before that day. I looked at her, trying to decipher if she was serious and questioned, “Do you think we can?”

She nodded without any hesitation and looked me back in the eyes with the kind of sternness as if we were heading towards a battle and possibly not returning. It was typical Fiona, the girl who fears nothing (which I secretly wished I could be). I knew her answer immediately. Her gaze was fixed on mine and was contagious, wiping away the anxiety that I showed with the thought of fire. Just this time, I thought to myself, I would try to ignore the unbearable heat and be more courageous than I had in a long time. 

Spaghetti was our decision, which was not a hard one for beginners. So we decided to add cream and ham instead of plain sauce to add to its difficulty level and to spray some fun on our first try at cooking. As soon as we started preparing, things moved more smoothly than I had expected. We wrote down the recipe and followed it step by step. As I tried to cut a large piece of ham into pieces with similar sizes, the worry that had been hovering over me since we made the decision to make food gradually waned. I began to feel the relaxation of taking some time off from studying during the quarantine. I bet Fiona felt the same since she was humming along to a song that I didn’t know the name of.

When it came to the point of boiling water in the pot to make spaghetti, Fiona walked to the stove. I felt somehow relieved. But she stopped in the middle as if something came to her mind all of a sudden. 

“Why don’t you try to ignite it?” She turned around and smiled at me. I stepped back instinctively and felt the uneasiness creeping up my back. But she came up and pushed me gently towards the stove even though I tried to resist it. “It won’t hurt,” she said lightheartedly. “You just need some courage.”

Finally, I stood in front of the stove, working hard to prepare myself for the upcoming mission. Yes, a mission. I didn’t know how long it went, but I could almost hear the loud click of the switch when it was turned, so loud that it’s deafening my ears. I could almost smell the heated air around the fire. I could…

And then a click. My thoughts were on the right track again as if this crisp sound had dragged them back forcefully. My mind was blank for a moment. I found my hand on the switch of the stove. It was already on. Right above it was Fiona’s hand. She had helped me take the step before I could even run away. I realized that everything–the sound, the smell–was not my hallucinations. Gazing at the quivering flames, I suddenly found that they were not as intimidating as they used to be. They were dancing.

Later on, when I was told to do a hand-stand t-shirt challenge as a part of the final evaluation for my yoga class, I felt intimidated. However, as I thought of how we prepared our spaghetti for the first time and how I ignited the stove, my heart was suddenly filled with courage. The challenge was no longer a challenge but a task to be done.

Most of the time, our life is an unprepared dish. Some find it difficult to ignite the fire while some find it scary to flip the meat in the pan. However, most of the time, all you need is a bowl of cream and ham to push a little bit forward. Just like how you need a teaspoon of courage to embrace new things. All is savoring after that.

super delicious spaghetti!
picture of us two

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