Just as I was thinking of how nasty it would be to sip the stuff, Ame declared that before the loser could claim her consolation prize, everyone sitting on the sofas surrounding the coffee table had to take a swig of the ghastly goo (which, we were told, was made using the powder packets from two boxes of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese and some kind of liquid that was rumored to be alcohol, though no one seemed quite sure). David was quick to stand before the bottle reached the couch upon which we sat. The blood vessels in my brain must have been clogged with cheese, because the next thing I knew, the bottle was in my hands and, in an uncharacteristic show of solidarity, I was taking a little sip.
Noting the look on my face, a combination of baby-eating-broccoli and woman-encountering-dead-body, Gretchen gave me a bottle of ginger beer; in return, I passed her the unholy concoction. Like children swapping spit or blood to become symbolic siblings, everyone sitting obeyed Ame and touched their lips to the Mac and Cheeseade. When the ritual had been completed, the mad scientist behind the emetic potion was awarded several boxes of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese and made to sit on a whoopee cushion.
Everyone cheered as the fourth, third, and second places were awarded dried macaroni and glitter-decorated “medals.” With hands and voices, people simulated a drum roll, and Ame solemnly raised the kindergarten-style medallion for the winner. Before this night, my idea of a good mac ’n’ cheese had been Velveeta shells or Kraft’s thick and creamy. As Ame approached me with the first-place medallion and an iridescent bag containing fine cheese and sparkling wine, I couldn’t help but feel proud. Sure, all I did was measure a few things and stir in the shrimp, but I had helped create something that people liked.
Okay, so it had nothing to do with that. I’d rather stub my toe than touch raw food. Sure, I take pleasure in bringing joy to others, but the real reason I was happy was because I was on the winning team. I jumped up with Queen’s “We Are the Champions” playing in my head, and accepted my award with a teary heartfelt speech. Then I popped open the sparkling wine and shared the spoils with my vanquished opponents. Meanwhile, David, content that he had done his best, simply smiled, allowing me to bask in the glory.