In my mother’s house, there is: paprika, cinnamon sugar, frozen yogurt, flour, baking soda, sugar, nutmeg, ground beef, cherry jelly, Muenster cheese, 90,000 things to mix with other things and, of course, water.
In my house, there is water.
Such a situation makes every day in what my roommate and I have dubbed the Post-Grad Culinary School of the Arts (or PGCSA) a cooking (mis)adventure. A lack of ingredients makes the brain work wonders in the kitchen because, as we all know, necessity is the mother of invention.
It is for this reason that one night for dinner we had the culinary extravaganza of Stouffer’s Mac & Cheese, spiced hot dogs, and toast with Smart Balance, the anorexic cousin of butter. That, I have to admit, was our lowest point and we have progressively gotten better and certainly more interesting.
For example, the other night we concocted a stir-fry of epic proportions—because, really, what is a Post-Grad Culinary School without a wok?—including but not limited to: pea pods, chicken which we perhaps questionably defrosted in the microwave (“Can we do that?” “I don’t know, just put it in the micro til it’s not frozen anymore. That should work, right?”), scallions, scrambled eggs, leftover frozen green beans, which we always seem to have leftover because I make too much. To the leftover vegetable, my awestruck roommate usually cries, “BEANS!” and we laugh like the idiot savant, degree-holding university graduates that we are. Then, while reaching for some oil in the kitchen to stir-fry it all up with, I came across a Raspberry Vinaigrette I had yet to use. What if we mixed it with the Soy Sauce we were already using and created a fruity, salty stir-fry? OKAY! LET’S DO IT! And it was awesome.
The primary focus of the PGCSA is to teach cooking improvisation, the art of throwing a bunch of random crap together and making something remotely edible. For this reason, students at the PGCSA are encouraged to visit Costco before classes begin. This way, students can stock up on seemingly random and otherwise worthless ingredients they will somehow later throw together into a culinary masterpiece. Creamed spinach? Perfect. Goat cheese? A must. Special K? Don’t leave without it!
There are no rules in the Post-Grad Culinary School of the Arts. Students are asked to test the boundaries of their refrigerators and their stomachs, leaving no spice un-shaken, no bacon un-fried, and no cheese un-melted. Pita pizzas feature goat cheese, bacon, olive oil, tomatoes, and olives. A traditional pasta dish involves tortellini, canned crab meat and, yet again, goat cheese. And chocolate chip cookies sans chocolate chips are the order of the day. “Don’t knock it til you try it” seems to be the unwritten motto of the Post-Grad Culinary School of the Arts, and we are proud to be two of its most loyal students.
Part of our loyalty comes from the fact that we are po’. Yes, friends, po’. So po’ we cannot afford to purchase the last two letters of the word. New York is a foodie dreamland, a mecca of culinary delights, and we are happy to be able to eat in one of these divine restaurants once every, oh, month or so. But in the meantime, we are devoted students of the PGCSA. Our mealtimes usually go like this:
“What’s in the fridge?”
“Eggs. Goat Cheese. Tomatoes. Dijon Mustard. Bread.”
“GOAT CHEESE AND TOMATO OMELET SANDWICHES! DONE!”
“Ohmahgah roommate, we’ve done it again. How is it fair that this is so awesome?”
“I don’t know, roommate. I just don’t know.”
And then we’ll smile at each other and thank the PGCSA for giving us such a worthwhile education, the kind of education that no university can offer. Thank you, PGCSA, and New York, for helping us not die of starvation.