My first morning as an intern at WeFiFo passed relatively smoothly; after my first hour, I had yet to spill jasmine tea all over my new workspace (a veritable accomplishment), and by 11 o’clock I had even managed to contribute successfully to the steady stream of conversation from my colleagues.
My aptitude with technology may have been questioned after I permanently deleted the document I’d been labouring over all morning, but, all in all, the morning passed without incident. I began to feel the first tendrils of confidence returning, especially as lunch break approached.
I’d been told that, at WeFiFo, everyone ate lunch together. After such a successful morning, I felt ready to conquer anything, including this daunting task of eating spaghetti whilst also attempting polite conversation. I’ve never been the tidiest eater, but this certainly seemed manageable. My first-day nerves quickly receded as the conversation meandered from dog breeds to third-date etiquette.
And then the moment I’d been dreading. “So, Maren, can you cook?”
I’d envisioned this would happen. I knew eventually I’d have to come clean, accept defeat, and admit myself to be a total fraud unworthy of the WeFiFo name. In my mind’s eye, I could already picture the frozen looks of disgust and horror on their faces as they realised their fatal mistake: they had employed someone without the faintest culinary expertise, who barely knew her carbonara from her marinara.
I could bury my head in the sand, label myself a failure and try to forget that WeFiFo had ever happened. But, never the quitter, I quickly discounted this idea. Hadn’t I joined the team for a reason?
I made up some plausible excuses of how I’d made it to adulthood without knowing how to boil an egg, but the first probing question was quickly followed up with “Don’t worry, everyone including the CEO and the web developers takes it in turn to cook lunch for everyone else in the office, so you’ll soon learn!”
This was while I was tucking into homemade pasta and beef and juniper berry ragù. I put down my fork and smiled politely. In my head I was already imagining the entire WeFiFo headquarters engulfed by flames, with myself at the core, holding the charred remains of beans on toast. How hadn’t this come up in my interview? How could I, barely able to rustle up a sandwich on demand, be expected to cater for these food experts, and live to tell the tale?
At this point, I told myself, I had several options. Number one: I’d have to feign illness every time I was required to cook. This plot, I reasoned, would soon be uncovered. After a few bouts of coughing every time the dreaded concept was mentioned, I would probably be advised to seek medical attention. This was an outcome I certainly aimed to avoid. Number two: I could bury my head in the sand, label myself a failure and try to forget that WeFiFo had ever happened. But, never the quitter, I quickly discounted this idea. Hadn’t I joined the team for a reason?
This left my final, most daunting option: I could, against all odds, learn to cook.
[Photograph by Timothy Tyndale]