The joy of cooking with friends as a twenty-something

If I wanted fried shrimp or chicken with a spicy honey glaze, he would make it. I loved seeing the smile spread across his face when he knew he had done it just right.

I admit that I haven’t inherited his expert sense, but I also like to experiment and change recipes to make something delicious.

Last summer was my first away from home. Instead of returning to Colorado and its delicious home-cooked meals, I lived in my tiny apartment in Boston, in charge of my own dinners. With a full-time job and other responsibilities, it became difficult to find joy in cooking.

The writer and her father pretend to cook in her play kitchen when she was little.Nicky Browning

Exhausted, I found myself opting for a frozen meal or something quick and easy. There was no point in making an elaborate meal for one person.

My best friend Bobby Wu also likes to cook. He found love in his mother’s fish mala and his father’s beef soup. Bobby also had a full schedule last summer, but in trying to coordinate times to go out, we found that we could make a weekly dinner a success. So after all the stress of the day, we could at least once a week sit down and eat.

We took ideas from TikTok videos or built a dish around a special item on sale at Trader Joe’s. As students, we didn’t splurge unless there was a special occasion. We made a lot of pasta with chicken and fish with rice. Leftovers were a big plus.

We’re both introverts, so our cooking sessions became a time to unwind. We would mix music by Noah Kahan and Chappell Roan and move around each other as we worked on our own tasks, chopping vegetables or boiling noodles. Then we would eat and watch whatever show we were working on. It used to be Afterparty, but I ended up convincing him to start one of my favorite shows, Gilmore Girls.

Bobby Wu cooks mushrooms and onions for a beef udon noodle dish. Maddie Browning for The Boston Globe

When the fall semester started, it became even more difficult to find time to cook together. We are seniors with multiple jobs and clubs and projects to complete. But we still have dinner a few times a month.

Bobby recently ran the Cape Cod Marathon, so I thought it would be a good opportunity to make homemade tomato soup and grilled cheese—a comforting end to a long day. Our biggest challenge was the fact that the only blender in my apartment is my roommate’s personal smoothie blender, which only holds liquid for one cup. We worked with what we had and mixed in small batches. It was boring, but nothing tastes better than food you worked hard for.

The writer dips grilled cheese into homemade tomato soup. Bobby Wu

Our last creation was the omelet that Sydney makes for Natalie in The Bear. This is another comfort dish—eggs stuffed with Boursen cheese and topped with chives and crushed potato chips. Bobby took the lead in making the omelets while I chopped chives and created a makeshift Ziploc cheese bag. We invited our friend Liz over and ate the omelettes with glasses of cheap wine sitting on the floor around my coffee table. (I still don’t have a real kitchen table.) We talked, laughed, and enjoyed a small moment of peace in our hectic lives.

We’ve made mistakes over the past few months, burning the bread and ruining an entire sauce by adding cream we didn’t realize was spoiled. But we had fun trying new recipes and learning more about cooking from each other. We didn’t have fancy gadgets or a spacious kitchen, but we still managed to create our own version of what my father created for me.


Maddie Browning can be reached at [email protected].

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