My niece Jessie, who is a freshman in college, recently called home pitifully exclaiming how tired she was of eating ramen noodles. I firmly believe, however, learning to survive off those 25-cent packs is a rite of passage into adulthood. Haven't we all been there? For me, college was the time in life to learn what it means to be independent, poor and hungry.
During my stint at Mississippi State, my grandparents and great aunt routinely sent me care packages. These boxes always drew a crowd from my dorm buddies—not because they were filled with delectable goodies. While my grandparents and Aunt Daise always lovingly packed each box with a few items they knew I loved, there was always at least one really bizarre item included as well. My Papaw liked to include cans of potted meat. I am sure there is some way to fix or serve this so it actually tastes good, but I still haven't found it. My granny's contribution was always something sweet. Most times this was a box of Russell Stover's chocolates, and every time, the chocolate box would already be open with several chocolates missing. Those that remained were "smushed." This was not the result of faulty packaging, but because Granny searched through the candy for the ones she wanted. The final oddity was usually a can of mixed nuts—with all of the pecans picked out of it. I grew wary of the nuts after seeing Aunt Daise suck all the chocolate off a chocolate-covered almond and then put the nut back in the bowl. Somehow the idea of eating from the mystery can o' nuts just wasn't appealing anymore. The only care package I ever received that rivaled their boxes was one from my mother. She sent it to the wrong address, so I received it several weeks late. It was a gigantic box filled with then-rotten pumpkins and a glow-in-the-dark toothbrush. God, I love my family.
Other than learning I didn't like meat from a can, I learned other valuable food lessons in college. After figuring out that I could not subsist on beer and fried cheese sticks alone, I would make trips to the Gulf Coast to visit my parents. Jan, my stepmother, would always take me to Sam's to stock up on basic life necessities (like ramen noodles and shampoo). From this, I learned "more" does not always equal "better." I used to really like banana chips, but after that one five-pound bag my freshman year I've never been able to eat them again. The same is true for animal crackers.
I was reminded of this lesson last week when I found the last box of pasta salad from Sam's hidden way in the back of the kitchen cabinet.
The final food lesson, if I can call it that, I learned from college life should have been obvious, but I admit it took me longer than it should to figure it out. It's very simple. Never, ever, under any circumstances drink anything that was either made in or served from a 30-gallon aluminum trash can. The end result is never good.
After reminiscing about all my college food follies, The Man and I decided to send Jessie a care package of goodies and recipes. I won't be sending her squished chocolates or other opened containers, but I think I might include that box of pasta salad. We will have to wait until next month to send the package, of course—when we have money and aren't eating ramen noodles.
Although it's not healthy or an actual meal, the recipe Jessie repeatedly asks for is for Ginger-Dill Dip, a good college staple.
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup sour cream
1/2 a yellow onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 pinched dried ginger
3 tbsp. (or more) dill weed
Mix all ingredients together and let sit for at least an hour before serving.
Great writing about furthering one's education in readiness for real life, Crawford. Thanks.
You haven't gotten a real eduction till you've done the Round the World at The Chimes.