Nothing ever tastes quite like what your parents whip together for you, Will thought as he ran his finger across the spines of his cookbooks. They were lined neatly across the smallest shelf of his kitchen- a testament to how little he knew when it came to…frankly, anything that had to do with food outside of eating it.
When he’d first gotten to college, meals hadn’t been that big of a deal. There were meal plans and takeout. Money had been to spend, not save- he could always call his parents for more. $20 for a new shirt, $80 for a textbook he’d forgotten to buy. When he’d moved out of the dorms as a junior and rented his own flat for the first time, he’d survived on whatever his meager paychecks from working at the campus bookstore got him. Sometimes it meant Ramen noodles for weeks on end. If he was really lucky, he’d splurge on a few cans of soup or some microwavable meals.
Graduating with a degree in International Business two years prior had made his father incredibly proud, and Will had thought he was happy, too. A college degree wasn’t anything to put a nose up to. For as much as he’d messed around during his four years of schooling, he’d also buckled down- missed parties, dates, and nights relaxing with friends in order to study for this or that. Yet he still felt…empty despite the happiness. As if there was something missing from the path he had laid out for himself. Perhaps it was because it was the path his father had wanted for him, but Will had thought that it was what he wanted for himself? It was all very confusing.
When he was a boy, maybe eight or nine years old, Will thought of his future. He imagined being 25 and having everything figured out. He’d be married to Baby Spice by then. They’d have kids and a house and nothing stretched before them but time and endless supplies of money. The reality was he was single and childless (both of which were absolutely fantastic as far as he was concerned- though disappointing facts to his mother, nonetheless) living paycheck to paycheck, showing up to work every day at 8 on the dot. His cubicle was bare- decorating it meant he planned to stay. No, Will wanted to cook- he wanted to learn how to chop up vegetables just so. Wanted to feel the heat lick his face as he poured oil into a hot pan and smell the onions as they caramelized.
So it was that Will continued to collect his books about food. Bugged his mother for recipes from his childhood and smoothed them into a binder then experimented with leftovers in his fridge. He wouldn’t be a chef tomorrow. He probably wouldn’t even manage to gain the courage to go back to school full time by next year. But a college class here, a cooking class at the Thai restaurant just up the street there. He would get there. Life was full of surprises that way.