So then…my sister Dawn shows me around her tiny college apartment and I’m so excited!
I’m still in high school, so it’s a really big deal that my parents let me come visit her for the weekend. I feel so grown-up!
We come from a big family, so usually there are 7 people crammed into our house, doing homework, eating dinner, doing chores – all with Mom and Dad confidently leading the team.
But now here we are, on our own!
I’d been a bit apprehensive about moving out and going to college, but look how well my sister’s doing! Living on your own is easy!
Dawn announces she’s going to make us hamburgers, which I think is somewhat ironic since she was rejected by McDonald’s for a summer job grilling burgers.
(During the interview, the male manager had asked her, “Can you type?”
This did not sit well with my sister. She was there to flip burgers and fry fries, so what did typing have to do with anything? She figured it was just a sexist question female applicants had to answer, so she retorted, “No. Can you?”
Turns out, he could not — and furthermore, did not appreciate her feminist vibe and declined to hire that feisty little wench. Ha!)
As my sister starts prepping the burgers, I ask if I can help.
She says, “Sure, you can make the mashed potatoes.”
Excellent! I LOVE mashed potatoes! I am quite skilled at both making them and eating them.
In fact, we have potatoes almost every night at home and I’m usually in charge of them. I don’t wanna brag, but I’m rather adept at peeling them, boiling them in salted water, then mixing them with butter and milk, for delicious, creamy mashed potatoes!
My mouth is practically watering!
I move to the kitchen and say, “Great! I’ll start peeling right now. Where are the potatoes?”
She heats up the burger pan, nods her head to the right, and says, “In the box over there.”
Why are potatoes in a box?
Oh, I see. This is a box of powdered potatoes.
Oh mah gah. I practically gag.
I’m no Cordon Bleu world-renowned chef – but I am a connoisseur of potatoes.
And these are not potatoes by any stretch of the imagination.
My parents have to be pretty frugal to keep 5 kids fed, clothed, and educated — but we nevah resort to powdered potatoes.
Now please don’t think I’m a spoiled teen. I’m really not. But damnnnnn, don’t get between me and mah spuds!
Naturally, I don’t want to appear ungrateful to my sister, so I don’t mention my horror. I just read the back of the box to see how to “approximate” a real potato dish with this box of powdery flakes.
The instructions say, “Add 2 cups milk.”
I open the fridge but I can’t find it, so I ask, “Where’s the milk?”
My sister nods her head to the left and says, “In the box over there.”
OH MAH GAH!
I’m supposed to make POWDERED potatoes with POWDERED milk?
So basically I’m just mixing water with a bunch of powder?
And we’re going to EAT that?
And yes, I know our soldiers often eat this type of food – and many impoverished people would be happy to have some powdered ANYTHING!
But I’ll admit that at this moment in time, my little 16-year-old brain can only think about the big luscious genuine potatoes slathered in melting butter back home in my Louisiana house with my big boisterous family.
And I get a little homesick.
And I decide I’m never gonna leave my family home to go to college or live on my own because…damn, being a grown-up is hard. Clearly my sister’s tuition and part-time job has forced her into making this drastic financial decision.
I’m not certain I could make the same sacrifice.
She makes the burgers – which are, candidly, not so terrific – (maybe there IS some typing involved in crafting a tasty burger.)
And I make the powdered-milk-powdered-potatoes — and hey, you know what? They taste even worse than I imagined.
BUT…we laugh & talk & eat & clean up & laugh some more. We have an awesome weekend. And I’m so proud of my sister for her amazing academics, her incredible work ethic, and her wise budgeting that makes her obtaining her college degree possible.
I return home with renewed excitement about finishing high school and striking out on my own just like my sister.
I just make a mental note to work extra hours over the summers to finance my tuition AND genuine potatoes!
P.S. Of course I’ve made PLENTY of budgetary sacrifices since then – I’ve eaten things, worn clothes, slept places that have been less than ideal over the years. I worked my way through college – even selling my blood when I was especially low on cash. But I’ve never again eaten powdered potatoes. Potatoes are my sacred food, y’all! Put some in my casket – I’m takin’ ‘em with me!
— Darcy Perdu
(Any favorite sacred food you just can’t skimp on? What were some of your budgetary sacrifices early on? Ramen noodles, anyone? Ever work at a fast food joint? Did you have to type?)