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Column: Pizza Rolls, I still love you

I don’t travel often, but when I do, it is usually for a sporting event or concert.

Perhaps even more than the actual event, my favorite part of the journey is the different restaurants I visit. Often, I will visit a place known for a specialty dish, and as soon as I get home, I am like a scientist in the kitchen trying to figure out how they made something taste so magnificent.

I enjoy these moments and the countless times during the year when I cook one of the family’s favorite recipes. I’m even learning to be a bit more patient when cooking on a pellet grill, even though I always start the process way too late and get frustrated when it’s nearing 8 p.m. and dinner is not done.

Looking back, I haven’t always enjoyed cooking and didn’t learn to love it until I was out on my own and had little choice. I was too poor to eat out all the time, so I started watching many cooking shows on the Food Network and learned a plethora of information I still use today.

I have to giggle when I think back on my early days in the kitchen when I would have to cook something during summer months when I was home alone. It was very basic, but some of those simple things I still enjoy to this day.

If I did not have a cereal bowl, my go-to dish was always cinnamon toast. This is probably one of the easiest things to cook for a kid, and unless you burn the toast, it always ends up great. I probably had cinnamon toast about three times a week and still enjoy it as a dessert in the evening. I remember we had a shaker just for the cinnamon and sugar mixture. I can still see the cinnamon stains on the side and probably should invest in one so I don’t have a mess all over the counter.

When I decided to be a bit more adventurous, I ventured into the boxed mac and cheese world. I make mean baked and instant pot mac and cheese, but I still love the boxed stuff to this day. Transitioning from cinnamon toast was a bit of a leap, having to use the stovetop, but once I figured it out, it became a staple of my summer diet.

I also transitioned into cooking in the microwave, which meant throwing in a hot dog and hoping I didn’t cook it too long, which meant warping it into a million different pieces.

I try to buy “the good hot dogs” these days, but if I’m on a budget, I still don’t mind a cheap hot dog, even if I’m not quite sure what I’m eating.

The other constant during the summer months was ramen noodles. I continued the tradition of eating these all the time into adulthood. I ate so many of these when I first moved into the dorms. This is one thing that I cannot eat regularly anymore. By the time I ended my freshman year, half my body weight had sodium from those salty packets.

Occasionally, my mom would go out on the town or to one of her what seemed like 20 different bowling leagues, and there would be a package of pizza rolls in the freezer. This was such a special treat that it almost felt like Christmas morning when I ate them. To this day, I do not mind a gigantic plate of pizza rolls. If it were up to the kids, we’d probably eat them three times a week, but I don’t mind when it’s lunch when no one wants to do much cooking.

Despite decades of pizza roll consumption, I still burn my mouth when the lava-like inside shoots out, but it doesn’t stop me from eating too many.

I’m certainly glad I learned a lot more about cooking, but I’ll never forget my first love, whom I still visit occasionally.