Just like my senior column this week, it’s hard to pick a way to end Annie’s Gotta Eat as I graduate. There’s no restaurant nor is there a recipe that can define my time in Miami or my thoughts about food. I could write a list of places to take your parents for graduation dinner, but your mom will probably spend an hour arguing with you about your choice and you’ll give in and go wherever she wants anyway. My dad just wants to take a trip to my favorite SoFla butcher, Proper Sausages, and grill in my backyard, which means I have to figure out how to mow the lawn when no one has done it for five months and all I have is a push mower.
But we have plenty of years ahead to eat meals and make memories with our families, so that’s not where I want to leave this column. This is an ode to eating with our college friends – not a restaurant or recipe but an idea. Every meal, from Denny’s at 2 a.m. to classy birthday dinners in Brickell, has been a luxury.
Editor-in-chief and my best-friend-extraordinaire Isabella Cueto and I always talk about the fact that our love language is gifts. Figuring out the perfect expression of love in an object for our friends and family is like solving the most enjoyable puzzle. And there’s nothing sweeter than receiving an object that someone put that thought into for us. (And saying it’s our love language is a sneaky way to get lots of presents). Increasingly though, I think there’s a sixth love language, or at least a subset of gifts, which is food.
Some of the dearest memories I have with my parents are my mom diligently teaching me how to bake phenomenal pies on Thanksgiving and my dad creating a “pizza apprenticeship” scheme for helping him make pizza almost every Sunday of my childhood. Favorite recipes are only passed down to those we trust and love. The way I am most likely to show affection to friends is to cook and bake elaborate meals – the more labor-intensive, the more love it represents.
My college friends have become my family, and, without question, the hardest part of graduating is saying goodbye to them. At least some of this closeness can be attributed to the fact that every Sunday night, one of my groups of friends gets together for a “fam dinner,” rotating who cooks each week.
A few weeks ago, it was my turn to cook, and I made the most elaborate meal of my life. I woke up at 9 a.m. and did not stop cooking until forks went up at 7 p.m. The menu consisted of pulled pork, mac and cheese, braised kale fresh from my garden, my first batch of home-brewed kombucha, freshly baked biscuits, tomatoes and basil in balsamic and a blueberry pie for the grand finale – absolutely everything from scratch.
There’s a reason I cook. When I saw the smiles on my friends’ faces and heard weird groans as they enjoyed the deliciousness (you know who you are), I didn’t feel burdened by the cooking but just so happy that I could give my friends a night of rest and an escape from their hectic lives with a meal that shows how much I care about them. When I’m just cooking for myself, you’d be surprised how lackluster my meals are – think a literal handful of goldfish and microwaved broccoli.
As we approach the last fam dinner of the year, a potluck, I’m reminded that I may not ever be able to sit around a table with 10 of my friends, share our weekly highs and lows as we always do and laugh with them. Although, we did make commemorative T-shirts with each of our faces photoshopped onto the last supper and our dinner “tour” dates on the back. The fact that my friends would do this partially explains why I am the way I am.
In my last few weeks, I really want to share my meals with the people I love who I will be pretty far away from for the foreseeable future. Annie’s Gotta Eat was about sharing the love that comes from food with all of you readers. I hope you’ll read this last column and invite whoever your “fam” is over for dinner, even if the best you can do is microwaved mac and cheese. You won’t always have the opportunity, and I can guarantee you’ll miss it when it’s gone.
Annie Cappetta is the managing editor of The Miami Hurricane. She will graduate with a Bachelor of Science in ecosystem science and policy and political science.