Most army folks don't have to cook their own meals. There's army cooks or a mess hall to take care of that wherever you go. But now I'm living away from the base and the enormous chow hall, with no cooks. The brigade, in its infinite wisdom, does send out enough food every month to feed three times as many people as we have here, so its not like we go hungry. In fact, our problem is not having enough freezer space to keep everything. With each shipment, we end up throwing away pounds of edible food and sauces due to the lack of space. And of course we usually grab the easiest things for lunch and dinner, like chicken patties and premade burgers or (in my case) ramen and tuna, instead of taking the time to make one of the dozens of boxes full of actual meals that collect dust in the store room. So last night I did my part and made spaghetti and meatballs for the whole crew.
The spaghetti dinner box had six boxes of pasta, two sealed plastic bags of sauce, three big cans of green beans, three (not very good) banana cakes, and some accessories, plus a bag of meatballs that were in the freezer. I took half of the pasta and sauce, and one can of green beans and one cake, all of which ended up being too much for the ten or so people who ate. Then I grabbed my laptop, placed it on the fridge, and put on Sex Mob Does Bond, an album I first heard when my roommate stole it from the college radio station. I then stole it from him and lost it. Then I got it for my birthday, let my brother borrow it, and he lost it. Finally I actually bought it for myself and now its on my computer and my external hard drive, so unless I lose those, I should be able to hold on to the album now. Anyway, its an album that I very much enjoy listening to, I hadn’t heard it in a while, and it suited the mood quite well. It also scared away anyone who wanted to try and get in the way of my dinner project, there's not a big audience for crazy jazz music in the army. I put two pots of water on the stove, along with the sauce-from-a-bag, and started defrosting the meatballs while I read a New Yorker article about one of Darwin's lesser know contemporaries. As I put the meatballs in the oven to broil (probably could have baked, but they came out fine) and started warming up the green beans, the spaghetti water started to boil as the familiar sounds of 007 inspired musical arrangements soothed my ears. Things were humming along.
As I strained the water from the green beans with a lid, the song "Nobody Does It Better" started to play, giving me a nice little ego boost, a pleasant ending to an enjoyable culinary experience. Of course it wasn't perfect, I didn't break the first box of spaghetti in half and there was too much pasta for the pot, so some of the strands were either stuck together on the end or stuck to the bottom of the pot. And I knew the sauce was bland (these were the same meals we ate in Rawah, except there we had guys whose only job was to make three meals a day for the camp), but I didn't add any spices to give it some character. Oh well, we have another six entire dinner kits, enough for over a dozen more meals, now I have goals for improvement.
Since the Bond album was done, I put on the Tin Hat Trio (shout out to my homey Dave, I did listen to all those albums you gave me over the years) as I told everyone dinner was done. What with the accordion and the violin and acoustic guitar it matched the Continental feel of a pasta dinner, or at least the Major seemed to think so. We retired to the office/living room next to the kitchen and watched Heroes and a good Seinfeld episode (the one where Kramer boycotts the post office and George tries to sleep with his cousin) as we ate.
I'm sure a lot of people would say "Big fucking deal, you made dinner, join the club." And I agree, its not some great accomplishment. It is just an indication of the utter boredom and monotony of my life at the moment that this experience was the most enjoyable thing that happened to me in the two months since I played basketball on Christmas Eve.
So the next time you, say, go more than a city block away from your house, remember that there are many of us who do not have that luxury, for whom making dinner is some kind of exciting peak of activity. To think, in less than two months I'll be able to wander around my city aimlessly. Other than the people, that is what I miss most about home and civilian life in general. Fucking freedom, man. I can't wait. Peace, I'm out.