Or you could alternatively title this post "Why I'm an Imbecile".
One of the nicest features about the building I now work in is its kitchens, which are regularly stocked up with food supplies that anyone is free to nab things from. The 14th floor kitchen was a critical resource for us when we had meetings here, with various raids happening roughly hourly, but during the first few full days here I began to realize that despite the wide variety of things on offer, there's not a whole lot that you can combine together to produce an actual lunch (unless you count a pack of crisps and some Babybel, which I do, but... moving on).
The nearest thing I found was in the larger upstairs kitchen, which had a collection of packets that described themselves as "EasyMac", some sort of fairly vile microwaveable macaroni cheese convenience food. I think that in common with a lot of people from Scotland I have something of an appreciation for really bad food (I've certainly never understood the soup-in-a-tower opposite end of the scale), so this didn't really bother me, and I tried to follow the instructions as a couple of people speaking German to each other wandered in and started making coffee.
The first difficulty was trying to pour "2/3rds of a cup of water" over the dry pasta that I'd dumped from the packet into a paper bowl. America is several decades behind in decimalization, and seems happy enough in being one of three countries, the others being Liberia and Myanmar
, not to have switched over to a naturally human system of measurement, and even though I've been in it for two years I can't get used to having to remember whether there are fourteen, sixteen or twelve of anything in anything else and having to think about things in quarts, yards and furlongs per fortnight. A "cup", unlikely as it might sound, is also a defined unit of measurement here, and though I know the general idea of what one looks like it's very difficult to actually translate that to a volume of poured water. I filled the bowl up to just cover the pasta and threw it in the nearby microwave for four minutes.
After pacing back and forward for a while, time was up, and I lifted the arrangement out and looked down at a sort of consolidated disc of dry welded-together macaroni. As I walked back to the counter with it, the larger of the two Germans leaned over. "It looks rubbish", he said happily through his large beard. Or more specifically, he said it in that sort of jovial brutally honest way that only people in German-speaking countries seem to be have truly mastered. I replied "'Schrecklich', you might say", because it always seems to catch people off guard when you know any other language than English or Spanish here, no matter how shakily. He was suitably impressed and wandered off with his younger companion while I looked at my assumed lunch so far and tried to decide what I could do about it. After some considering of the options, one of which was to give up, I added some more water and repeated the process, this time getting something that looked marginally more edible but not really any more appealing.
The cheese component of the mixture was provided in suspicious yellow powder form in a packet that was tightly sealed against anyone attempting to open it. After biting it open with my carnivorous teeth, I upended it on to the bowl despite there looking like there was far too much of it, then decided that there really was far too much of it and not enough water in the bowl to possibly absorb it. I topped it up a bit from the hot tap, then wondered how on earth I was meant to stir the watery, powdery, pastaish stuff together into a glutinous whole with the amount of room that I have available in the bowl without spilling everything over the sides. In one of my moments of genius, I went for the approach of placing another paper bowl over the top of the existing one, holding the arrangement tightly to prevent any of it shooting out the sides, and shaking it up and down over the sink.
My manual prevention of the stuff leaking out the sides worked perfectly. Unfortunately instead the bottom of the first bowl instantly gave way, having been already weakened severely by being microwaved twice, and the entire contents splurged revoltingly down into the basin, leaving a wide yellow splatter mark with a perfect disc of macaroni in the centre, which was still fused to itself as well as the entire bottom of what had once been the bowl it was microwaved in. Deciding it was best at this point to back off from the toxic substance, I scraped the remnants out of the sink into the bin, washed off the sink and made a cup of a Pot Noodle-like concoction instead, which could simply be reconstituted by pouring some boiling water into it.
On the way out back to the office area with this I passed the Germans again and had to explain what had happened to my original meal as they noticed that what I was carrying back was significantly different from what they'd seen me making. They were most amused - as much, I think, at the idea that anyone had attempted to start making the stuff in the first place as at my abject failure at it. It really says something that I can't even make a microwave meal without it turning out this apocalyptic.