A friend dropped by the other day around eleven and we walked the dogs together. When we got back, I invited her in and offered her lunch. She did that polite demurral thing, but when I said, “Really, I’ve got plenty,” she accepted. I made us salads — mixed greens topped with chicken apple sausage, sautéed onion, apple, and toasted pecans. And on mine, a little goat cheese. She doesn’t eat dairy. Plus, balsamic vinegar. That’s a normal lunch for me, and it was no big deal to make more, but she raved about how delicious and healthy it was.

That evening, another friend stopped by to show off his new purchase — the batmobile of motorcycles, a Victory motorcycle, I’m going to say this one. It was gorgeous. I’d been in the middle of cooking dinner, so I invited him in. He said, “Are you sure you have enough?” and I said, “You might have to eat something more later, but I’ve got extra.” He came in and I chopped up some more squash and made salads that I hadn’t been planning to make, so we had steelhead trout marinated in soy sauce (gluten-free), sriracha, and lime juice and sautéed, with yellow squash sautéed with ginger, plus a salad of mixed greens, celery, radishes, and a peach honey mustard vinaigrette. He said it was probably the first salad he’d eaten in a month and the best meal he’d had in a while.

Yesterday, my same dog-walking friend came by early and walked the dogs with me again — she likes the exercise and B is much, much better at walking when there are two of us for some reason. Maybe because I can really leave him behind when someone else is holding his leash and so then he hurries to keep up? But I had coffee already made, so invited her in and made us breakfast. (She again said, “Oh, no, you don’t have to do that,” to which I answered, “I have bacon.” :)) We had eggs, scrambled with onion, spinach, cilantro, and avocado and cooked in coconut oil (to avoid the dairy), with the bacon on the side. The eggs were actually seriously delicious. Great combination of flavors, and the coconut oil worked really well. It’s a different flavor than butter would give, but a tasty flavor.

Anyway, that day — well, or 24-hour period, since it was really one day to the next — that day was once my fantasy. When I started learning how to cook, it was mostly so that I could feed myself, but there was also a wistful daydream associated with it of being able have someone drop by and whip up a meal for them in the kitchen like it was no big deal. To have a friend over and feed them without having to plan, without having to run to the grocery store or buy ingredients. To open the refrigerator and say, “what can I make with what I’ve got?” and have the meal turn out as delicious and interesting as if I was in a restaurant.

It’s taken me seventeen years or so, but I wish I could go back in time to my younger self, the me that was going through a divorce, alone in a dive-y apartment with a three year old, feeling overwhelmed and grief-stricken and angry, angry, angry, and thank her. The decision she (I) made to learn to cook was made out of frustration and financial insecurity and loneliness. I knew that if I was ever going to be the parent that R deserved, I needed to be able to feed him more than pasta and fruit. But what a good decision it was.

Edited to add: my friend Tim congratulated me on this moment by saying, “Congrats on adulting to the extreme,” which made me laugh. It is the perfect summation of how I feel.