November 19, 2019

KENKARE | Invitation to my Collegetown Dinner Party

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There comes a moment in every undergraduate’s life when we aspire to something more. For some, it’s when you’re living in your first apartment in Collegetown. For the more ambitious, it’s when you still inhabit a cramped dorm. Either way, the day comes when you utter five dreaded words: “Let’s plan a dinner party.” Your housemates look at you doubtfully, likely remembering the time you cracked eggs into a pan and forgot to turn on the gas for a wild and confusing half hour. They suggest alternatives: Why not just plan a group outing to Koko? How about we order pizza? In all your deluded glory, you stand firm. The egg thing happened once, and anyway the next week you burnt them to a crisp, which is obviously an improvement. You are ready for adulthood’s first hurdle.

Saturday at 5 p.m., your roommate reminds you that everyone’s coming over at 7 p.m. You pretend that you’ve been planning the whole time, and in a way (subconscious anxiety has resulted in sleepless nights), you have. At the very least, you know what you want to make. Drumroll please: pasta! This staple of any ‘fancy’ dinner prepared by a college student has not yet let you down. The steps are simple: Boil the pasta, pour sauce fresh from the jar and sprinkle frozen cheese over your delectable creation. What could possibly go wrong? Turns out, a lot.

You overboil the pasta. You became distracted while attempting to pinpoint the location of the weird smell that haunts the kitchen every weekend and now the pasta is a soggy, soft mess, lumped in a sad pile in a colander in the middle of the sink. Sighing, you pull the sauce out of a cupboard, and find that, despite frequent trips to Noyes (twice in 2019), you are unable to remove the cap. The struggle ensues for the next 15 minutes. Finally, frustrated, you gently whack the jar against the countertop. It shatters upon impact, and you’re left gaping at the red pool spreading rapidly across the counter and dripping onto the floor. The entire apartment now smells like marinara and you know that if you don’t do something fast, your roommate will gently whack you against the countertop.

A roll of paper towels later, the sea of marinara is cleaned up, the pasta is a cold, clammy pile of mush and guests are due in minutes. Your housemates offer to help, but you proudly reject their pity. Now, they watch amusedly from the table as you wring your hands over the meager offerings. Ultimately, though, you know what you must do. You set the pasta aside and grab seven familiar styrofoam cups from the cupboard. You add water to the marked line and microwave each cup for 90 seconds, maintaining triumphant eye contact with your roommate. Cup noodles are not often lauded for their nutritional content, however, and upon contemplation, you place a decorative and nutritious banana next to each bowl. You step back and observe your masterpiece with satisfaction.

Dear reader, you may have guessed this hypothetical scenario is based off of a true story. I don’t want to recount in detail the rest of the night, as I can’t afford to dissolve into tears again. The table was set with actual silverware and glass plates, with my roommate’s orgo assignment serving as the centerpiece. After a moment of stunned silence, my lovely guests suggested eating literally anywhere else — from CTB, to Okenshields, to the trash can outside of Olin. My disappointment was immeasurable, and my night was ruined.

I would love to say the moral of this story is something inspiring, like “learn how to cook pasta, you infant,” or “not everyone loves cup noodles, and that’s ok.” However, this story has one moral, and one moral only. Between the ages of 18 and 22, do not invite anyone over to dinner. Ever. Not your friends, not your neighbors, definitely not the boy you’re trying to impress in introductory biology. As undergraduates, we are, frankly, incompetent. Your time would be better spent pretending to prepare for hell week, while enjoying yourself one styrofoam cup of joy.

Pallavi Kenkare is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at pkenkare@cornellsun.com. Jabberwocky runs every other Wednesday this semester.