Though I can’t remember the first meal I made when we moved into this house six years ago, I can remember the first dish we ate here, and the first thing I did with—no, the first thing I did to the oven.
Being cheap as well as poor (indeed, there’s a crucial difference between the two), we hired movers only to do the heaviest lifting and transfer our furniture from the cushy two-bed, two-bath gated rental community on the banks of the Hudson River into this slightly worn 1920s Colonial in the suburbs of Jersey. Nearly every other box, bag, lamp, pillow, and picture frame had been carried here on one of our after-work trips in our aging Pontiac.
And though we’d tried to do as much as we could in the month between our closing and actual moving day—ripping up the nasty old carpet (the former owner having been a carpet salesman, naturally) and having the hardwood floors refinished, stripping all the outdated wallpaper and repainting every. single. wall.—the process of moving into a whole home threw me for a loop. How did we manage to keep all of this stuff in one apartment?
With only a few hours to go before our midnight move-out deadline at the rental community and miles of boxes to carry before we slept, there was no time to stand on ceremony. Heck, I could barely stand, and the dining room was prime dumping ground for everything that entered the house, with absolutely no room to assemble a proper seating area. We sat on the floor and ate plates of food from Boston Market down the street, and it was the best thing I ever inhaled.
Full disclosure: Boston Market remains one of my guilty comfort food pleasures. I know, I always say I don’t have any guilty pleasures, but this requires some defense. See, I was a counter wench there in high school, and its food sustained me throughout my senior year (that, and Denny’s seasoned fries and Caesar salads). Mac and cheese, creamy spinach, mashed potatoes with salty poultry gravy, cold, peppery tortellini salad; it was always the sides I craved most, and I ate them at least twice a week for a year, so their taste memory remains imprinted on my psyche.
I would have eaten nearly anything the night we moved into this house—rubbery pizza, possibly even Chicken McNuggets, if things were truly desperate—but a turkey sandwich slathered in Caesar dressing, the way I’d always make it at the end of my shift, and a big bowl of marigold-yellow macaroni seemed like the perfect karmic meal to christen our new home.
Six years later, more pasta’s been boiled, more cakes have been baked, more lemons have been zested, and more dishes have been washed in this dinky little kitchen than I can begin to quantify. And yet I’ll still cop to grabbing a bowl of Boston Market mac and cheese some nights after I’ve logged my tenth straight hour at the kitchen counter, I’ve cleaned my stand mixer bowl for the fifth time, and I can’t bear to fire up a stove burner or I’ll go crazy.
Oh, and as for the first atrocity I committed to the oven? It’s a lesson on why you should never drink and paint. Standing on the kitchen counter to reach the upper few inches of the walls (where I later hand painted my food quotes), my foot accidentally grazed my beer bottle. In a futile attempt to save the beer, I jerked my arm down to grab it, knocking myself off-balance and crashing to the floor. It wasn’t that far of a drop, but my butt managed to hit the (already outdated) oven’s warming door handle during the last few inches of my descent, ripping it from its track and tilting it irreparably askew. I’ve never used it or bothered to repair it. Who needs a warming drawer, anyway?