I Eat My Favorite Soup Once a Year

Passover only happens eight days out of the year, but for a carb-loving, bread enthusiast like me, it can be quite disheartening not to eat leavened bread for the entire week-long Jewish holiday. However, there is one dish that I always look forward to eating when Passover comes around.

Every year, I look forward to seder dinners at my grandparents’ house in New York. Passover is the one time each year where my whole extended family gathers together. We read aloud the 1930s version of the Haggadah—the Jewish text that tells the story of Passover—that was passed down to my grandparents. The book is outdated and written in old English, but it’s a tradition, so reading it’s a necessity. We sit at the dining room table and take turns reading a paragraph. We practice the customs of the seder and collectively sigh when the last blessing is read, which cues the start to dinner.

When the books are cleared, the first course of dinner is served. Without delay, bowls of matzo ball soup are ladled into fine china, and just as quickly as they are passed out, the soup is gobbled down by the guests at the table.

There’s something about matzo ball soup. It’s a simple and minimal dish. A large, softball-sized matzo ball is served with a hefty ladling of chicken soup. Matzo balls have a bready, sponge-like texture and are served in a chicken broth. The balls are made up of a mix of eggs and matzo meal—ground up matzo bread—which allows the bready soup dumpling to soak up the flavor of the chicken broth. The broth is no different than regular chicken noodle soup, but it isn’t served with all of the fixings at my grandma’s. No celery, no onion, no carrots, not even pieces of chicken. Just broth and matzo balls. The chicken flavor is so potent that it tastes just like the liquid form of a chicken. The soup is served hot and warms the soul.

Matzo ball soup is hands down my favorite soup of all time. Aside from the grandiose flavor, the dish brings back memories and a wave of nostalgia. Each spoonful transports me back to when I was younger at these Passover seders. Because I was the youngest child present at the table, I had to read a passage every year called ‘The Four Questions’ in Hebrew. While it was nerve-wracking every time, as a reward for reading, I was one of the first to be served a bowl of matzo ball soup when the time came. While this might have been pure coincidence—or due to the fact that I sat next to my grandfather at the head of the table—I rationalized my good work with the prize of matzo ball soup. 

I have made my own matzo ball soup based on my grandma’s recipe numerous times, and while the renditions taste great each time, they simply are not the same. I’ve mastered the art of making matzo balls, perfecting both the size and texture, but my chicken broth has never compared to my grandma’s. Without the potent flavor of poultry in my broth, my matzo balls are less flavorful, too. Alas, this does not discourage me from making the wonderful dish at all. Rather, it encourages me to keep trying. 

While I can make matzo ball soup all I want, my all-time favorite soup is the one at my grandparents’ house that I can only get once a year. Plus, my grandma’s matzo ball soup gives me a reason to look forward to Passover every year.

Cover photo courtesy of Melanie Cooks


The Search for the Perfect Fried Chicken at Buttermilk and Bourbon

5/15/2021 2:00 am

Scrolling through the feed of endless content, my finger stalls as I’m confronted with the text of “Boston’s Best Fried Chicken” over a video of white sauce being drizzled over a crispy fried chicken. My mouth salivates as I eagerly close out of Instagram and open Google Maps, searching up the name of the restaurant. “Buttermilk and Bourbon: Destination for quirky New Orleans-inspired dishes by a local star chef plus a lively lounge,” my phone reads as I flag the restaurant on my Want-to-Go list on the app. I type “Boston’s best fried chicken” in the description and type save. The folder increases from 272 to 273 locations. I swipe up, reopening Instagram and continuing my scroll online.

I’ve been assembling a list of restaurant locations and things to do in Boston since my freshman year at Boston College. I always try to explore and try new places, and I place a great importance in finding recommendations for places to eat. Often my folder grows with saved locations that look great, but I will never eat at. I have been meaning to visit Kane’s Donuts—supposedly the best donuts in Boston—ever since freshman year, but still have never managed to make it there. Regardless of my history, I had a deep desire to go to Buttermilk and Bourbon, and I knew that I would make it there. One day at least.

3/11/2022 at 2:30pm

I forgot about Buttermilk and Bourbon until spring break, when my girlfriend decided she would take matters into her own hands and finally got us there. Ari found a reservation for lunch at 3pm (dinners were booked) and surprised me with the news. An hour later we were sitting on the T, a half hour ahead of our reservation. Eagerly I looked over the menu with Ari, entranced in the options.

“We have to get the fried chicken, that’s a given” I say to Ari, “but I think we should also get their signature warm honey glazed biscuits.” 

“Eh I’m not too sure,” she responds back as the loudspeaker muffles out some statement. “I don’t like biscuits that much and they didn’t even look that good online. Maybe we should get the mac and cheese.” 

As we finalized our order of the house special buttermilk fried chicken—thighs of course—along with garlic herb mac and cheese and fried beignets to finish, the T came to a stop as passengers started flooding out of the doors. Confused, I asked another passenger who said “T’s down. Apparently, there’s a fire on the tracks.”

Next thing we knew, we were waiting in line for a bus to take us toward Newbury Street, with 10 minutes until our reservation. Rather than wait, we decided to walk the 30 minutes and call the restaurant to explain our situation. 

Starving and exhausted, we stumble down the stairs into the dimly lit entrance covered in scaffolding, almost looking like we weren’t meant to be there. We glance at one another and head inside, and are met with a rustic, but cozy restaurant that is surprisingly busy at 3:30pm. While being guided to our table, we pass by a group eating oysters and drinking martinis. Must be nice. 

As the waiter places down our mac and cheese, I am drawn toward the smell. Spiced garlic fills the air, and I glance at the dish. The mac and cheese is plated in a round skillet, noodles topped with a chunk of short rib and lightly garnished with scallions. Upon digging my fork into the bowl, I am met with a soup-like consistency of broth at the bottom. After indulging in a bite, I am met with a shock of pleasure. The dish tastes less of traditional mac and cheese, and almost instead tastes of a garlicky beef stroganoff with cheese. In all my dining experiences, I’ve always found mac and cheese to be subpar, with the taste never living up to the look of the dish. Yet, this mac and cheese tastes nothing like the ones I had before; it was meaty and soupy, but in a good way. It wasn’t what I expected, but that made it even better. The short rib fell apart immediately, and the crushed ritz crackers melted with the liquid of the dish. Ari and I gobbled the dish down before our next plate was delivered.

The chicken arrives at our table freshly fried, steam rising out of the crispy exterior. The plating is simple, just two fried thighs and a ramekin filled with white barbecue sauce—as recommended by our waiter. As I cut into the chicken, some juice dripped out of the meat, indicating that this thigh was cooked to perfection. I’ve tried making fried chicken at home, but the meat has never stayed this juicy before. As I bite into the chicken, I’m surprised at the flavor of the dried exterior. It tastes almost like seafood, and fairly salted. I glance at Ari, and she has the same puzzled look on her face as I do. 

“It kind of tastes like calamari,” Ari says, and I have an aha-moment where the flavors finally make sense in my head. Yes, the chicken tastes like calamari, that’s what it is! It wasn’t bad at all, in fact after the surprise of the first bite I really enjoyed the flavor. The seasonings were rich and the flavor was so unique. The cooking is New Orleans-inspired, and I figured that’s what made this chicken stand out from the other fried chickens I’ve had in the past. 

The white barbecue was the star of the show because it didn’t overpower the flavor of the chicken, but perfectly complemented it. The sauce tasted like a spiced honey mustard; it was sweet, salty, and rich. It was complicated in flavor, but the sauce matched beautifully with the fried chicken. I dipped every bite of meat in the sauce, and it made the experience even more enjoyable. After eating the chicken, I pulled out my phone and search up a recipe of the white sauce, to which I found out the staff calls it the “crack sauce.” They couldn’t be more right.

Lastly, the waiter brings out the plate of beignets, and despite how full I already am, I’m eager to dig in. I quickly grab a hot beignet and take a huge bite, and then almost immediately cough up the powder sugar that I just inhaled. Ari immediately bursts out laughing and then asks if I’m okay. I nod and catch my breath as I sip on my water. After my coughing fit, I retry the beignet, which tastes closer to a sweet biscuit than a puffy deep fried beignet. While it was not what I expected, I still happily ate the beignets while Ari was disappointed in them. Judging by the fact that I didn’t order the honey-glazed biscuits as an appetizer, these biscuits satisfied my earlier craving.

Buttermilk and Bourbon met and exceeded the expectation that I had simply because of its unique approach to classic Southern dishes. Turn a mac and cheese into a stew? Check. Make the fried chicken taste like calamari? Check. Have the beignets taste like sweet biscuits? Check. With each dish, Ari and I were pleasantly surprised by the new flavors and techniques of each plate. 

On the T ride back to Boston College, I opened up Google Maps and changed the location of Buttermilk and Bourbon from the Want-to Go-list to My Favorites.

Cover Photo Courtesy of Logan Soss


Grandma Soss’ Applesauce

A story told by Logan Soss

A burgundy minivan pulls into the driveway as my dog barks at the intruder. As soon as the worn work boots crunch on the icy pavement, the barks turn to yips as he recognizes my grandpa and rushes to grab a toy to play. My grandparents shuffle up the icy driveway and I meet them at the door.

“Hi Logan!” they say, giving me a hug. We head inside and, as I start to take my jacket off, my grandpa calls to me, “Hey Logan, there’s one more thing. Can you help me bring in some things from the trunk?”

I open the back hatch and am met with an accoutrement of cooking equipment: an enormous stock pot, a giant ladle, and an industrial-grade Kitchenaid stand mixer. What’s all this for? I wonder, hauling the materials inside. I heave as I lift the final item: a remarkably heavy bag. I peek inside, and my eyes light up with excitement as I eye the apples. We’re making applesauce.

My grandma’s applesauce is no joke. As far back as I can remember, most of my grandparents’ dinners had a large serving bowl of homemade applesauce, with glass dishes stacked on the side. Applesauce pairs with every meal. No matter how stuffed you are, the applesauce was a nice and light complement to the dinner. You’d serve it with fish, sandwiches, or steak, and top it on your latkes, pork chops, or yogurt. It is the best applesauce I’ve ever eaten. My grandma’s recipe always seemed mystical to me, as I never knew how it was made. Today, I’d be confronting this mystery and learning firsthand from the master.

After a light lunch, we go to work making the applesauce. “It’s an incredibly easy process,” my grandma explains. “You just have to find the right apples.” She points to the peck of Ida Red apples. For the last twenty years or so, my grandma has been outsourcing her apples from a local farm, Roe’s Orchard to be exact, which grows Ida Reds perfectly. Ironically enough, the whole time my grandparents had actually been growing the exact same kind in their own backyard on what they thought were crabapple trees. The fruits never bloomed thanks to the local deers. Talk about a coincidence. Now for the last couple of years, my grandparents have always made a batch using their backyard’s apples, but the yield is much smaller than needed, so they still shop at Roe’s Orchard. 

The first step is to core the apples to make sure you don’t cook the seeds. With four chops of a knife, the apple is quartered and tossed in the 24-quart stock pot. The skins should stay on, as it helps give the sauce its signature pinkish hue. Once the final apple is cored, my grandma pours fresh apple cider into the pot, just so that it fills the bottom layer to prevent the apples from burning. Topped with a hefty dash of cinnamon, the pot is then transferred to the stove to cook.

We light the burner on medium heat and lid the pot, allowing the apples to fully cook down. My grandma only stirs the pot twice, once in the middle of cooking and once when they are finished. At this point she doesn’t add a timer, she can simply estimate the time off the top of her head. This skill comes with experience, I’ve learned, and I’m keen to learn this one day. Once the apples are of a mushy consistency, remove the pot from the heat and ready your Kitchenaid.

In order to process the apples down into applesauce, you have to use a foley food mill or some other kind of mechanical food strainer. My grandma has a Kitchenaid foley food mill attachment for her stand mixer that is one of a kind. She’s been using the same tool for decades now, and she tells me the story of how she went to a Kitchenaid store to replace her attachment with a new one and the workers at the store laughed and said they had never seen that product before. Turns out that the production of the attachment stopped shortly after it was released, and that there are roughly only a couple thousand of the Kitchenaid foley food mills in existence. 

With this antique mixer, I scoop the melted apple pieces with a slotted spoon, being sure to fully drain its liquid before placing it into the machine. The foley food mill presses all the contents out of the apples, and after spoonful after spoonful, the bowl slowly rises with newly created applesauce. Once all of the apples are gone, we stand back and view the masterpiece we just created.

The magic of this applesauce is the simplicity of its ingredients. My grandma takes a spoon and tastes it, and adds some more dashes of cinnamon to bolster the flavor. After mixing the bowl and trying again, she is content with how it turned out. I give the applesauce a taste and I am transported back to old times. Even though it is only flavored by the puree of the apples and cinnamon, it tastes appropriately sweet, almost as if it was made of nectar infused with honey. The texture is perfect, light and soft. It is practically liquid gold, only with a rose gold tone. This batch of the apple sauce was not as pink as usual because the apples we used were not as fresh and in season. The best time to get Ida Red apples is November, where the flavor is naturally sweeter and the skins are reddest. Regardless of that fact, the applesauce was delicious and tasted exactly how I remembered.

Crafting applesauce is an artform in itself. Despite how easy it was to make it, I know I would mess it up if I didn’t have my grandmother’s guidance. After learning about the laborious process that goes into production, I have grown a deeper appreciation for my grandmother and her stamina and ability of mass-producing this applesauce, planning a weekend to turn enough apples into a year’s supply of applesauce. This batch of roughly 23 apples only yielded roughly four quarts of applesauce, and it took about 2 hours in total time to make. I estimate that they must produce about 10 gallons of applesauce a year, stored in individual vacuum sealed bags and placed in the freezer until needed. 

This applesauce takes me back to my childhood and I always think about the dish when I’m away at school. After making this batch, I took two quarts of the applesauce back to school with me to share with my friends, and I’ve prolonged its presence as long as possible. 

Cover photo courtesy of Logan Soss


Manifesting an Italian Dinner Night

One day I was scrolling through my Instagram feed when I stumbled upon a pasta sauce ad that caught my eye. Usually, I skip right past sponsored content, but this was different. The ad pictured a bird’s eye shot of a dinner party with a bowl of spaghetti and meatballs in the center of the frame. The guests happily scooped noodles—the thickest I’ve ever seen—and meatballs onto their plates. Immediately, my craving began. My mouth salivated. The meatballs seemed to shimmer in the setting’s moody, yellow light, and the noodles made me want to sink my teeth into a forkful. This simple, ten-second ad had induced a deep desire—a craving that boxed noodles and jarred sauces could not satisfy. I wanted a bowl of homemade spaghetti and meatballs with an authentic tomato sauce. After replaying and unmuting the ad, lively Italian dinner music played while the clinks of plates and background voices added to the ambiance of the video. As staged as the setting may have been, the lighting and the environment felt real, and my craving for spaghetti and meatballs evolved into a need for more. 

I wanted to have an Italian dinner party. 

I only heard about these dinners from my Italian friends and had seen them in movies, but I knew exactly what I wanted. Traditional Italian dinner parties center around the idea of reconnecting with friends and family over the shared love of food. Having enough food to serve the large company of people in attendance is pivotal to these parties. I’ve heard that these kinds of dinners have a start time but no end and can last for hours so long as the conversation (and food) is good. Alas, the only problem is that I’m not Italian. With spaghetti and meatballs on my mind, I went over to my friend’s place to hang out. 

“What’re you thinking about?” Izzy asked as she opened the door, immediately recognizing my deep concentration.

“I want to have an Italian dinner party,” I blurted out, almost stunned at my response. “I want spaghetti and meatballs. The real homemade stuff with homemade pasta sauce. But the only problem is we don’t know any Italians.”

Izzy stared back at me with a blank expression, then shifted her face to a look of confusion. “You do realize I’m Italian, right?”

After I apologized for my forgetfulness, Izzy quickly adopted my desire to host an Italian dinner party. 

“I haven’t been to one since before the pandemic,” she remarked, explaining to me how her Italian family used to host large parties that included her extended family and longtime friends. We sat down and made a list of people we’d invite. We settled on 18 people: three, six-man rooms. My room would bring the garlic bread, our friends’ room would bring the salad and dessert, and Izzy’s room would host and make the spaghetti and meatballs. A date was set for the following Sunday, and I could hardly wait.

The day before the party, Izzy called me over to help make the sauce. “The most crucial part of making this dinner authentic is the sauce,” Izzy said. 

We gathered together all the ingredients and got to work. I chopped the onions and garlic while Izzy prepared the tomatoes. She instructed me to saute the onions and garlic until they were fragrant, then let them simmer in red wine. We added in the tomato paste and tomatoes, and then mixed the pot. We topped it off with fresh basil, lemon zest, and some other spices.

“Nice! We’ll let this pot simmer for a few hours. We’re pretty much done for the day,” Izzy said proudly.

I was shocked. “That’s it?” I asked, confused at the simplicity. “How come we made it a day early then?”

Izzy chuckled, and happily shared her family secret. “The sauce isn’t done yet,” she explained. “Once the sauce has finished reducing tonight, I’ll leave it in the fridge overnight so the flavors deepen.” Izzy explained that tomorrow afternoon she will put it back on the stove, add more spices and salt as needed, and then complete it with the drippings from the meatballs. Once finished, the sauce will be rich, complex, and ever so delicious. 

The next day, I eagerly made garlic bread with my roommates. We timed it perfectly so that we would pull the bread out at 6:55 pm, and then immediately walk across the hall to Izzy’s room in time for the dinner to start at 7 pm. As I was welcomed into the room, I was met with the pleasant aroma of savory meatballs and the rich tomato sauce. I turned on the TV and put on a playlist of cliché Italian dinner music that I had curated earlier in the week, and chatted with my friends as they came into the room. We sat down at the long table, and ate our salad as an appetizer. Izzy served everyone heaping bowls of the handmade spaghetti she got from Eataly that morning, poured on the homemade pasta sauce, topped that with the meatballs, and finished them off with freshly-grated parmesan and a slice of garlic bread.

As I happily chowed down on my bowl of Italian deliciousness, my heart swelled. My desire for homemade spaghetti and meatballs had been fulfilled. Not only that, but I got to have an Italian dinner party. I fondly thought back to what started this all: that pasta sauce ad on Instagram. While that sponsored post might not have moved me to buy the jarred sauce—I can’t even, for the life of me, remember the name of the brand—it inspired this amazing evening. So to anyone reading this who wants to host an Italian dinner party themselves or take the leap into something unfamiliar, I say to you: fallo e basta


My Apartment Cooks Family-Smile Meals, You Should Too

Everyone has that one thing they can look forward to each day, whether it be going on their daily jog, seeing their friends, or even returning to their own comfy bed. I look forward to a good meal.

Food has always been the highlight of my day, keeping a consistent rhythm to my life. Every single evening I know that I can come home to a good dinner, thanks to a carefully crafted dinner schedule with my roommates. My apartment cooks family-style dinners, with enough portions to feed six people. It might sound daunting to cook for so many people, but it is incredibly helpful for three main reasons. 

First, family-style dinners save me so much time during the week. It is very convenient to come home from a busy day of classes to a hot meal ready to be eaten. Rather than scrambling to find leftovers in the refrigerator to eat for dinner, one of my roommates will be cheffing it up in the kitchen. You budget an hour of time once a week to cook for five others, and then you are rewarded with five cooked meals during the week. Sounds like a fair trade to me! 

Next, these family-style meals allow me to eat a wider variety of foods than I normally would. If I was left to cook for myself 7 days a week, I know that my diet would most likely consist of boxed mac and cheese, ramen noodles, and takeout pizza during my busy school week. Instead, I can rely on my roommates to choose what dinner I will be eating most nights. It is an absolute luxury to not only have dinner cooked for you but have the option of what is being served chosen for you. We all know the phrase, “I’m hungry but I don’t know what to eat,” and the family-style meal stops these words from being uttered into existence in our house. It’s always a joy to look at the whiteboard hanging in the kitchen and read what I’ll be having for dinner that evening.

Jon draws his inspiration from whatever he is feeling at the moment, generally trying to remain on the healthier side with a good amount of vegetables and proteins in his dishes. Just this past week he cooked a pasta stir-fry with an abundance of greens. Similarly, Jameson cooks mainly vegetarian meals, subbing meat for a plant-based alternative in his buffalo chickpea enchiladas and teriyaki tempeh. Andrew specializes in homestyle Asian cuisine, trying out new recipes from shrimp tempura and Cantonese steamed cod to simpler dishes like miso soup. Peter loves to cook and always makes a dish that he thinks will turn out delicious. How much time he has dictates what he’ll be cooking, if he has to study for an exam he might make a quick recipe like Sazon-seasoned chicken thighs, or if he has more time he might make a more labor-intensive dish like carnitas (which takes upwards of six hours to cook). Jason isn’t the biggest cook, so he might make a simple dish like grilled cheese or fried rice for the house. 

Like many of my roommates, I love to play around and experiment with recipes I find online. I cook every Tuesday, which is the one day of the week where I have only one class. I can then put time and effort into my dinners, whether it be replicating Babish Culinary Universe’s Swedish Meatball recipe or going rogue with a recipe-free creamy chicken and green bean dish. It is so rewarding to introduce the completed dish to my roommates, almost like I’m on an episode of Iron Chef. While I love the praise, I also cherish the feedback they give me. I always ask them what they think could be improved upon, and if they’d ever like to have it as a meal again. The whole part of being a chef is learning from others and consistently practicing and trying out new things. If I didn’t receive constructive criticism that my dish needed more salt or would taste better next time with spinach over green beans, I’d never improve as a chef-in-training.

Photo courtesy of Recipe Tin Eats

Finally, there is something sacred in the act of eating as a family unit. Having everyone assembled together for dinner each night helps us bond and catch up with one another. No matter how busy you have been that day or how many classes you’ve had, it’s nice to see each one of my friends around the table and chat over a good meal. While it might be hard some days to make the scheduled dinner time, the trouble is worth the reward of sharing a meal together. Eating breakfast and lunch alone or with one other person makes sense, but dinner is different. Dinner is not only about sharing food with friends but time with them. Environmental activist Laurie David famously said “a great dinner must include not only yummy food, but good conversation,” and I couldn’t agree more. Even if our dinner conversation consists of jokes in light-hearted conversation, time spent with one another is invaluable.

Eating family-style meals has become a custom in my apartment that I take pride in. Whenever I tell anyone that my roommate and I eat dinner together every night, I’m usually met with shock and admiration.

“That sounds so nice,” they always say. “I wish my roommates and I did that.”

To which I respond, you absolutely can.

Cover photo courtesy of Eat This, Not That


Caffeine Fiends

Take two steps into my apartment’s kitchen, and you might assume that you’re walking into an underground local coffee shop operated by college students. You would be mistaken, but you’re also not entirely wrong to assume so. 

In my apartment of four roommates, we have three coffee drinkers and eight different coffee machines. That’s three French presses, two Keurigs, two Vietnamese drip coffee filters, and a Nespresso machine. While we like to drink the beverage, we differ in our particular preferences and our rituals surrounding coffee. 

Ian, the only non-coffee drinker of the house, despises the smell and taste of coffee and finds our drinking habits ridiculous. “There are two main things I don’t understand. First: can you people decide what coffee machines you use and don’t use?” he said, admitting that he passive-aggressively puts them away on the top shelf, so it’s hard for the rest of us to reach. (Ian is the tallest in the house at 6’3”, so that’s no harmless action.)

Due to miscommunication on all of our ends when moving in, we now have an excess of coffee machines. Peter and Sean each brought their Keurigs and French presses because they assumed no one else had any. A week later, I received a French press as a housewarming gift from my girlfriend. We continued to expand our brewing horizons as the semester went on. Peter got into Vietnamese drip coffee, first purchasing a small, followed by a large, drip coffee filter. Not to be one-upped, my girlfriend surprised me with a Nespresso machine for Christmas, which I keep in my room for special occasions. 

Ian also doesn’t understand the appeal of coffee or the ritualized nature behind it. “The second thing I don’t understand is: aren’t you supposed to drink coffee in the morning? There is no time in this house where someone isn’t drinking coffee,” he explained.

Sean wakes up every morning to a cup of coffee, and he describes it as an essential part of his morning routine. “I’m completely dependent on coffee, without a doubt,” he admitted, sharing that he probably drinks way more coffee than the average person. 

As of recent, the ever-present coffee smell in the kitchen has dissipated. While Sean used to brew French presses every morning, he realized that he needed more caffeine. Now, he stops at Starbucks before class and orders a large latte with three espresso shots to get him through the day. During finals season, he goes a little haywire on the coffee consumption, confessing, “I might have upwards of around eight shots of espresso a day.” 

Peter, as of the last month, has completely stopped drinking coffee. He would drink two cups of coffee a day at his peak, but he began to realize that he was dependent on caffeine. Without a cup in the morning and the late afternoon, he wasn’t able to wake up or do work. Peter stopped drinking coffee cold turkey, supplementing his intake with less-caffeinated teas. He swears that he hasn’t felt better since.

I am the last coffee brewer in our house. While Sean drinks his coffee solely in the morning, I, on the other hand, reserve my coffee-drinking for the second half of the day. I drink my first cup around 1 p.m. when I begin to fall into my afternoon slump, and my second cup of coffee after dinner around 7:30 p.m. I know it might sound crazy, but this allows me to have enough energy to stay up and work on my assignments while still going to bed by 1 a.m. I might sneak a third cup of coffee somewhere in between these times, depending on the day and how I’m doing. As if the caffeine isn’t enough, I drink my coffee with two large spoonfuls of sugar and some caramel creamer in each cup. I have an ongoing love/hate relationship with the taste of coffee, so the sugar makes the drink even more addicting.

While I might not have the healthiest attachment to coffee, I’m not ready to give up my ritual of coffee drinking just yet. No matter how many times my roommates and friends mock me for drinking too much sweet coffee too late in the day, I’m comforted by the familiarity of the drink. My go-to brewing method is the Keurig; I enjoy packing my pre-ground beans into a refillable pod, pouring 10 ounces of water into the machine, and waiting as my coffee turns out the same every day. This method is quick and reliable,  I know what to expect every time I press the brew button. If I’m working on a large project or just exhausted, I’ll turn to my French press, brewing a larger batch of coffee to consume over an hour. And as I said before, my Nespresso machine is reserved for special occasions, like preparing for job interviews, drinking coffee with friends, or if I just feel like treating myself. Whatever method I choose, a cup of coffee keeps me on task for homework sessions and ultimately keeps me functioning. 

The coffee machines are still on display in my kitchen, with several currently out of commission. Twice a day in my apartment, you can expect to catch a whiff of the classic coffee smell when I’m brewing up a cup. Maybe this summer I’ll try to wean myself off coffee, but realistically I doubt I’ll ever give it up. 

Cover Photo Courtesy of Roasty Coffee.

Editor’s Note: This article was edited on May 1, 2021, to reflect two word changes on behalf of the author.


A Food Breakup and New Beginnings

“Dinner’s ready!” I yell to my roommates as I place down a homemade platter of fried chicken, buttered corn, mashed potatoes, and gravy.

After stuffing our faces full, Peter and Will glanced at one another and then turned to me. “Logan, we talked about this and we think we’re going to go on a diet.”

My heart sank into my chest. I felt like I had just been broken up with. I associate diets with no more sweets, no more carbs, no more fats, and definitely no more fried chicken. Eating always comforts me. Being able to eat whatever I want feels so liberating; to take those feelings of freedom away just felt cruel. 

To free up time, my apartment serves family-style meals where each roommate cooks at least one dinner a week. I suddenly worried that our pasta dinners, stir fry nights, and Taco Tuesdays would disappear, replaced with flavorless meals of chicken and two sides. Grilled chicken can only be eaten so many times before it becomes outrageously boring. Nonetheless, maybe I needed a change. 

“We only want to add more vegetables to our meals and cook with less oil. That’s all,” my roommates clarified. 

I was skeptical at first, but I begrudgingly agreed to try it out. Rather than view these guidelines as limitations, I took them as a challenge. From now on, I would use these suggestions as motivation and turn these bland dishes into something flavorful and tasty.

After decent meals of butternut squash soup and vegetarian Mapo Tofu, Friday night came around and it was my turn to cook dinner. While I was craving breaded pork chops and rice pilaf, I scrapped that idea for a more ‘roommate friendly’ meal. I opened the fridge to see what we had: chicken breasts, spinach, mushrooms, and some old pizza. I shuddered. I had a flashback to my middle school cafeteria lunches of dry chicken, spinach slop, and frozen mushroom stew. Bringing myself back to reality, I knew I could do better. I chucked the pizza slices in the trash, grabbed my ingredients, and got to work. 

I sliced the chicken into pieces and coated them with salt, pepper, and garlic powder before browning in a pan. We had no heavy cream to make a creamy sauce, so I had to improvise. The chicken was replaced with butter and garlic and I worked on the sauce. I sweated out the mushrooms and added some chicken broth. I added in my spinach and threw my chicken back in, letting it simmer until the sauce thickened and the flavors melded together. I added salt and pepper to taste, and as a final touch, I grated fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano all over the meal.

Photo Courtesy of The Kitchn.

I did it. I not only cooked according to my roommates’ standards, but I also finished in record time. I am notorious for underestimating how long my meals take to cook—an estimated 7 p.m. dinner often turns into an 8:30 p.m. supper. I turned a meal I despised into something filling and flavorful.

I realize now that I limited my opportunities for food excellence by ignoring multiple food groups. I challenged myself to make a bland meal taste better, and mushrooms, spinach, and even grilled chicken can be delicious if cooked correctly. Although I prepare dinner each week, I only cooked to my tastes. This process made me broaden my culinary range and adapt my meals for my roommates’ taste buds. Pushing these boundaries led me out of my comfort zone and took my culinary skills to a new level. 

Setting down the platter of creamy spinach and mushroom chicken, I yell, “Dinner’s ready!”

Cover Photo Courtesy of Salt and Lavender.