When microwaving an egg, be careful not to leave it in there for too long. There’s a delicate balance between cooking the whites to smooth, rubbery perfection and letting the waves nuke it until it explodes, sending chalky yolk shrapnel firing off in all directions.
I know this because I microwave a lot of eggs. Not because the pilot light in my stove has gone out, or because I’m out of clean pans, but because I’m lazy as hell. More than that, it’s because I’m not an entirely functioning adult. I believe “millennial” is the term all the kids are using? The face of prolonged adolescence is a Cuisinart coated in tiny bits of radioactive egg yolk.
I started nuking eggs — liberally spraying a plate with Pam, cracking one or two eggs onto the slippery surface, and gingerly sliding it into the microwave, trying not to let the runny whites slosh out onto the counter/floor/my bare feet, slamming the door shut and hitting 1:55 on the panel before slumping back onto the futon to wait — out of laziness. This was the normal, slovenly laziness of any college coed, born of youthful ennui and also plainly not giving a fuck, because: college.
Notes on college: one time, I came home drunk and ate an entire Styrofoam container of sesame chicken that someone drunker than me had abandoned in the stairwell of my apartment building. I lived to tell the tale. I also went through a brief and mercifully short-lived period during which I’d come home and make “stir-fry.” I’d wake up to a bowl of half-raw — and half-eaten — chicken mixed with limp vegetables beside my bed. Once, in another drunken hungry stupor, I ate an entire rotisserie chicken — one of those really juicy, perfectly browned ones from the supermarket — my mom had unwittingly left in our fridge, believing it would be safe ‘til morning, while home for Christmas break. You get the idea.
Now, staring down the barrel of 30, I’m starting to suspect that this sort of diet (okay, this sort of lifestyle) is less than befitting of an otherwise functional and self-sufficient professional person.
I have an adult job as an editor at a magazine. I have health insurance. I do not have a 401K, but sometimes I think about thinking about starting one. I have an apartment that I pay for almost entirely on my own, with just a tiny bit of help from my parents, which, at this age, is called “financial assistance” and not “allowance.” (See: career in writing).
And, more often than not, I come home from my professional place of business and pour myself a towering glass of moderately priced wine—in a mug, if there are no clean glasses—and nuke myself an egg or three. I coat those puppies with I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter spray as “seasoning,” and shovel them into my mouth in front of the TV. Because I don’t have a dining room table. I don’t have a dining room. I have a futon and a coffee table covered in crap.
But it’s not just eggs. Unlike many of my peers, who document their every culinary adventure with the gravity of a photojournalist on assignment in some far-flung, war-torn corner of the globe (heads up, every chick I know from high school: not even your husband cares about the #healthy #chicken and #cauliflower pilaf or whatever you whipped up for #hubby tonight). I don’t consider going to Whole Foods to be a fun activity, so I don’t go a whole lot. Sometimes, I order a bunch of stuff I’ll probably let spoil in the back of my fridge on Peapod. Mostly, though, I order in, eat out, or scrounge around for weird cans of things to MacGyver into some semblance of a meal.
Recently, that meal was an entire can of peas dumped into a Tupperware container, zapped in the microwave, and coated in my favorite faux-butter seasoning. This proved just gross and sad enough to merit an Instagram post, as some sort of dystopian foil to all those Valencia-filtered gourmet dinners. You tend to get a lot of “likes” on self-deprecating posts that remind even the most downtrodden of online friends that at least their life isn’t that bad. At least it hasn’t come to peas.
These are not the dining habits or the sound life choices of the person 10-year-old you imagined you’d be when you were 30. That person had, like, six kids and a big-ass house. With a dining room! I think maybe that person was also a doctor.
I’m well aware that instead, I have the eating habits of a recently divorced, middle-aged man. A guy who, suddenly wife-less, finds himself standing in the kitchen in his tighty whities, bathed in the light of the open refrigerator, eating cold SpaghettiOs out of a can while wondering if the affair with Susan from accounting was really all that hot in retrospect.
It’s not really wanting “recently divorced, middle-aged man in tighty whities” to be my touchstone that inspired this essay and rambling admission of the depths of my own grossness. (And, believe me, we’ve been splashing around in the shallow end of that particular pool.) It’s also what has inspired me to embark upon a self-taught culinary education. Well, if not a full education, at least a couple of semesters at the local community college.
For example, I can now cook Brussels sprouts. On a stove. Those who have been flambéing their own Tuesday night dinners for years might scoff at this elementary feat — throwing some halved sprouts into a pan with olive oil (the rich man’s butter spray!) and salt and pepper, and sautéing them until browned and deliciously crisp on the outside — but for me, it’s a big deal.
So, it’s the little things, I think, that make you feel like a grownup. Receiving your first real paycheck from your first real job. Suffering through your first two-day hangover and realizing that maybe you can’t drink like you’re 21 any more. Finding your first grey hair.
And sometimes it’s as simple as cooking eggs in a pan, while the microwave sits by, silent and approving.
Alexandra Cavallo is the deputy managing editor of The Improper Bostonian. Formerly of The Boston Phoenix and Metro Boston, her past and current “beats” include horror movies (the bloodier the better), music (the sadder the better), TV, gross fast food “reviews” and mildly-to-overtly snarky pop culture commentary. She sucks at Twitter, but is trying to get better at @AlexCavallo14.