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The Question of Take Out

January 25, 2009

By most accounts, I started cooking when A. and I started dating. Before then, my roommate and I would heat up frozen mixed veggies or a bagel. In fact, I remember calling a high school friend over for an evening to teach us how to cook. He made a delicious meal, but we were amazed that he was using the oven instead of the microwave– the Ohhhs! and Ahhhs! When A. and I began to see each other, we were both living on very meager salaries, and there was no choice, but to cook. After many emergency clarifying conversations with my mother, I produced a few decent meals. Graduate school intensified the need to cook, and well, we both had more time to cook. In fact, we enjoyed cooking, and we tried complicated recipes. Although there were still incidents of cooking incompetence, like the Pizza Crisis of 2004, which occured in the spacious kitchen of my modified studio flat. In trying to emulate my friend’s homemade pizza recipe, I burned the top and undercooked the bottom of the pizza- destroying all hopes for date night. Screaming and kicking, I ran to my bed and swore off cooking forever. However, even in that moment we didn’t order out. A. quietly went to the kitchen and looked up my mom’s tortellini recipe, and made it. Since the stove broke the next day, I still maintain it was the oven and not me. Even today, we reserve making homemade pizza for special days, where my patience is extra generous.

Due to the chaos of trying to juggle a busy job and graduate school, cooking turned into a chore, much like cleaning, an activity where I enjoy the product more than the production. Coming home from class late, or A. from work, we would both look in the fridge and realize we forgot to go shopping. Instead of spending the hour at the grocery store, it just seemed easier to get sushi or Indian. At least, we always make sure the takeout is something I could never make. We won’t eat at most Italian or American-style restaurants because we both agree the equivalent could be made at home. However, we just got lazy. Last year, my first year of the PhD program, I went from saying only Asian cuisine, to eating a cheese sandwich at Mason. I mean really, a cheese sandwich? Hence, a period of time when we were paying too much for food. Thankfully, we changed this bad habit this year, and A. even helps out! I pack my dinner for school, or I plan ahead for those potential late nights by cooking a big meal the night before. Now, eating out or take out occurs only on the weekend. Perhaps a tradition started by my busy mother who went back to school as well, I don’t cook Friday nights, which I maintain is perfectly fine, if we don’t go have a five course meal at Cafe Milano (and who at my age does that anyways?). But even then, I, or we, wonder what is the average number of nights people eat out? And if you don’t want to eat processed frozen food, how do you move around the general problem of cooking exhaustion?

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