The Whole Story | Chapter Two

Like any high school student, I wanted to be liked and accepted by my classmates. I wanted to have a great group of friends I could count on and who supported me, and who were into the same things. Friend groups changed regularly for me for some reason, and I wish that I nurtured many of my past friendships more than I did. I was constantly changing and looking for a place where I fit and felt like myself, a place where I was laughing and having fun and learning about the world.

I am lucky enough to say that I found that group, or rather that group found me. I like to think of our friend group as a merger of smaller groups and relationships. We were eight girls and a dozen boys, always pairing up and sectioning off to do different things, but coming together regularly for movies, birthday parties, or dinner where our reservation was for a party of twenty. We traded the duties of hosting depending on the season or activity, but everyone’s home became comfortable enough to just walk in the door and add your shoes to the pile by the front door.

We were a close group, but naturally some relationships were closer than others - there were five couples among our close friends, which was not unusual of the high school we attended. Even in such a large group, everyone had their “thing,” and I was the chef and baker.

I have always loved to cook. My mother used to sit me in the kitchen as a toddler and get out the pots and a spoon to keep me entertained. I had a child sized apron, several cookbooks for kids, and even got to use the real oven. My father is an engineer/contractor, and he did not think baking under a lightbulb was a good idea. I used to come home after school and watch the Food Network before starting my homework, back when they played shows that actually taught people how to cook. I was captivated by Sara Moulton, Jacques Torres, Gail Gand, Rachael Ray, and Emeril Lagasse and fantasized about someday being like them. I subscribed to cooking magazines, took all the home economics classes, and cooked for friends and family regularly.

Cooking for people was a way to share and express my love. I enjoy entertaining as well, but mostly because of the food that is to be prepared. There is something very satisfying about sitting down to a home cooked meal that was lovingly prepared for the people you care about. I think this is probably why I don’t really like going out to restaurants, but more on that later.

In high school it was pretty well known that LDag (my childhood nickname) was a great baker and cook. I loved to try out new recipes I had seen on my favorite shows, or use a new kitchen gadget or cookie cutter I had just found. I baked something for almost every party and sleepover because I really enjoyed sharing a part of myself with my friends. I even made every one of my 19 friends a pizza sized cookie cake before we all went away to college, decorated with their new school’s emblem. 

It is only in the last few years that I realized that my love of cooking for people I care about also comes from this place of needing to be accepted and liked. Friends were always so excited and impressed by what I made for them and I took that to heart. I began to crave this feeling of acceptance and excitement that I would cook or bake for people because I needed them to like me. I needed to feel like I belonged.

Getting ready to leave home for college was one of the scariest times of my life. I still feel silly even saying that, but for someone like me who had worked so hard to fit in, going to a place where no one knew me was terrifying. I knew who I was within the context of my friends and my hometown, but I had no idea who it was that I wanted to present to the outside world. I was still so impressionable because I didn’t have a strong enough grasp of who I truly was. But then again, what 18 year old does?

And so I often wonder, why do we - as a country - accept that this is a normal and appropriate age to spend valuable time honing our skills for the future if we aren’t really sure who we are in the present?

Lauren D'AgostinoComment