We all know that food gives us energy. But cooking food — mainly with friends — can also energize you when you’re too tired to do anything else.
In my junior year of high school, my youth group planned a fundraiser for its upcoming retreat. One of the members of our church was the renowned pastry chef John Park who had pie pop-ups all over Orange County, and he graciously offered to “donate” pies to this cause and let a few novice-baker high school students help him in his pie-making process. I had signed up to help make the pies and run the selling booth, but when my alarm went off at 5:00 a.m. on a Saturday morning, I momentarily regretted my decision. It was simply too early to be up on a Saturday!
Nonetheless, I sluggishly drove to church by 6:00 a.m., announcing my arrival into the church kitchen with a resounding yawn. My other friends who had just arrived were also yawning, and Chef John chuckled at us. Don’t get us wrong — of course we were excited about the retreat and wanted to help fundraise, but, at this moment we just wanted to go back to bed.
But something shifted once we got our hands on the ingredients. Chef John first demonstrated each step of his pie-making process to us, and once we started rolling dough, preparing pie filling and crumbling shortbread topping, our tiredness seemed to disappear. Everyone quickly found their groove — by mid-morning, we were consistently rolling dough to the right thickness, whipping pie filling with ease, and crumbling shortbread topping like there was no tomorrow.
Seeing the first completed pie that we had helped make was both exhilarating and comical. “I have no idea how we did that, but we did,” one of my friends remarked, shaking her head in awe. And, in that moment, we wanted nothing more than to make more and more beautiful pies and surprise ourselves in the process. We were no longer the half-awake students from just hours before — we were energetic young pastry chefs, determined to make the best pies possible.
We continued making pies through the afternoon, losing track of time, until we suddenly realized it was 4:00 p.m. We had to leave because today was not only a pie-making day, but also the day of our school’s winter formal. Yes, we had a dance to get to in only a matter of hours!
So, my friends and I speedily cleaned up the kitchen and then bolted to our houses to rinse the flour off our faces, slap on some makeup and swap our sugar-stained T-shirts for dazzling dresses. We then rushed to the dance venue together, and despite having spent practically the entire day on our feet making pies, we danced the night away.
After the dance, though our feet were tired, our hearts and minds were still running on this adrenaline from our earlier pie-making. We drove back to our homes at midnight, singing along to music at full volume. Somehow, remarkably, we were back at our church’s kitchen bright and early — a mere six hours later.
That morning, we put the finishing touches on the pies. Shockingly, we sold out within two hours. After my friends and I sold the last pie, we started teasing each other about how tired we were feeling just the day before. When we first arrived at the church kitchen, we wanted nothing more than to go back to bed, but baking together gave us a much-needed spurt of energy that carried us through an incredibly eventful weekend.
Junior year was four years ago, but sometimes, as a college student, I wish I could channel some of that pie-making adrenaline to get me through the day. Maybe you could use some of that too, as we’ve returned to classes after spring break. Perhaps a remedy for your spring semester lethargy is to cook something with friends — whether it be pie or something completely different. If you don’t feel like using the dorm kitchens, this can also look like creating a unique dish out of dining hall staples. For example, have everyone make a salad that represents them best (I have a friend whose go-to “salad” is just a bowl of pistachios).
But whatever you make, I truly believe that unleashing your culinary creativity in some way with friends is the best way to energize yourself when you feel like you have nothing left to give. Food itself can nourish you, but so can time spent in good company, possibly even giving you the push you need to finish the last half of the semester well.
Emily Kim PO ’25 is from Irvine, California. She loves baggy sweaters, YouTube karaoke and banana bread.