I do not consider myself much of a cook.
In fact, I think it’s pretty remarkable that I can fry up some potatoes, season chicken and eat veggies by way of Dole salad kits every week.
But the original Food section editor and former editor-in-chief, Emily Williams, is a fantastic cook. An avid subscriber to NYT Cooking, Emily was inspired partly by a recipe from the section and partly by in desperate need of a trip to Kroger when she wrote about spooky pasta for one of the early editions of The Student’s food section two years ago.
The dish — a sweet, sweet combination of noodles, parsnips, bacon, parsley and excess amounts of cheese — was a hit among the staff and close friends.
But it also became our thing. When I was down, which occupied a very large chunk of my headspace throughout my sophomore year of college, no problem couldn’t be solved with an extra helping of spooky pasta, a can of Kroger brand sparkling lemonade and an episode of our favorite show, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.”
My role in actually helping cook the spooky pasta was limited to flipping over the bacon and grating the parmesan, but it didn’t matter what I was doing so long as we were together.
So when my housemate, Samantha, texted me a couple weeks ago: Buying ingredients for spooky pasta, Nostalgia hit hard when I walked by the parsnips, my heart leaped for joy.
All my housemates and I gathered around our dining room table to eat dinner.
“Is it as good as you remember?” Sam asked.
“I don’t know,” I replied in the middle of a mouthful, not nearly as enthusiastically as I should have.
“That definitely means no,” Sam joked.
I immediately backpedaled. “No, no,” I said. “It’s amazing. I just – I don’t know. I need to think about it.”
Enjoy what you're reading?
Signup for our newsletter
The pasta was great, but eating it without Em was bittersweet. She graduated from Miami two years ago and lives in Charleston, South Carolina where she works as a reporter for The Post & Courier.
And, even as I twirled another forkful of pasta, a thought nagged at the back of my mind.
In the television series, “The Mindy Project,” Mindy Kaling’s character makes a controversial distinction that “a best friend isn’t a person, it’s a tier.”
During the first two years of college, Emily was undoubtedly my best friend, my mentor in journalism and the older sister I never had. She is still all of those things today, but it’s different.
We don’t live in the same place, nor do we work for the same newspaper, hang out with the same friends or eat the same food. Our shared plate of spooky pasta is separated by several states and a 10 hour drive.
It doesn’t mean she’s not my best friend. It doesn’t mean I don’t miss being in the same place. It just means our lives have changed.
After Em graduated, I was upset that our friendship went from seeing each other every day to calling on the phone every couple weeks and texting intermittently throughout the week. But, and I’d have to agree with Mindy Kaling here, it has given me the opportunity to share the tier of “best friend” with several other amazing people in college.
In many ways my Miami experience — more than anything — has taught me how to navigate the messiness of being human, including all of the complex relationships we share with those we love.
I’m happy, as a senior now, to look back and realize I have built of a family of best friends.
All I have to do is walk outside my room to see three of them: Kate, Kirby and Samantha sitting in our living room. I could also climb up the stairs in Armstrong to our newsroom, drive to Cincinnati, Northville, Michigan, Chicago and even hop on a plane to Charleston to find the rest.
At the beginning of the school year, I agreed to edit the Food section because I knew it was Emily’s original labor of love, and I wanted to honor her legacy. But I also understood that food bonds people together in ways that words can’t.
This section is a dedication to those bonds of friendship, and hopefully a small snapshot of many more years to come.
So I took comfort in dinner last week, surrounded by all three of my housemates as we laughed and entertained The Student’s assistant photo editor, Bo Brueck while he captured pictures of our spooky pasta.