When I eat dinner alone, I get stressed out if there are dishes to do waiting in the sink while I eat. The best way to avoid this, I’ve found, is to eat directly from the pan I make my pasta or oatmeal or eggs in. Sometimes I end up scalding my leg as I try to read The New Yorker on the couch with a pot on my lap, but there’s something wonderfully solitary about cooking for one.
Sometimes I share fast dinners at school, sitting in a hallway when it’s dark out with a time limit on how long I have before I need to get back to work. We order sandwiches from Haven and fill ourselves up with grease, throwing away the butcher paper at the end of the night.
Then there are the dinners when people come over to my house and bring flowers, when my family sits in the dining room and uses cloth napkins. Meals stretch on as we pass conversations back and forth with the pepper mill. Those are the dinners where the house smells like pink lilies, even a week later.
The dinners I appreciate the most right now are big and elaborate. My friends and I have started having meals where we make more courses than we know how to eat. We cook until 10:30 and dance to Beyoncé. We fill all of the pitchers we can find with fruit-infused ice water. The dishes take hours to clean, but there are orange slices drizzled with honey to eat while we wash and dry. We’re embodying some semblance of our future selves, probably, trying to be grownups too early. It’s easy to forget that some of us are already 18 and will soon be leaving the comfort of these nights behind, and that those of us who aren’t won’t have those seniors here next year. We fill our glasses with sparkling sodas and make emotional toasts. “Here’s to dinners,” I want to say. “To drinking water that tastes like strawberries and cucumbers—to knowing we have people to eat with.”