ROCKFORD, IL—Local mother Anna Sampson, whose 22-year-old son Michael recently graduated from college and is now living on his own for the first time, was kept awake Tuesday night by the thought of what kind of food Michael was likely eating.
"When I moved him into his apartment, I left him with enough food and recipes and cooking supplies to last him two months, so he should be able to make himself a decent meal every night without worrying about having to buy anything," said Sampson, whose son, at last report, was flanked on both sides by bags of Cool Ranch Doritos and a bag of Wavy Lays, placing one atop the other to create chip sandwiches for lunch. "But he might not even know which cabinet I put the cooking oil in."
"I should call him and tell him where it is right now in case he's looking for it," added Sampson, who would have to direct her son to an area now obscured by two-foot-high stacks of packages of ramen noodles and Nutter Butter Bites.
Sampson says she was able to monitor and influence her son's eating habits while he lived at home, and was rarely concerned about him in college, since she hand-selected his flexible dining-hall meal plan and refilled his on-campus convenience-store points card every month. However, now that Michael is living an hour and a half away in Chicago and is responsible for buying and preparing his own food, it's "a whole different story."
"I just hope that it's not grilled-cheese sandwiches and tomato soup every single night," Sampson said. "And Michael had better watch the amount of sugar he spoons into his oatmeal every morning. That'll rot his teeth." In actuality, Michael routinely skips breakfast, except for last Sunday morning, when he dunked left-over cupcakes from a friend's birthday party in a glass of Sprite.
Although she equipped her son with a George Foreman grill, a complete set of pots and pans, several varieties of food "you can make right on the stovetop,"12 boxes of his favorite pasta, three frozen containers of his grandmother's homemade tomato sauce, eight Ziploc bags full of pre-marinated chicken, several cookbooks, and an array of sophisticated kitchen utensils, Sampson is still plagued by nightmares ranging from Michael "not varying his diet enough" to him "eating too many cookies before dinner."
"He doesn't know too many recipes, but hopefully he's cooking small things for himself," said Sampson, incorrectly assuming that her son has turned on his apartment's oven even once during the three weeks he's lived there.
Sampson also failed to take into account the possibility of Michael heating up the tomato sauce in the microwave and using it as a dip while consuming an entire box of Ritz crackers in one sitting.
"The last time I talked to him—three hours ago—I asked him what he's been eating, and he said, 'You know, normal stuff,'" said Sampson, whose personal definition of "normal" does not include spoon-feeding oneself the contents of the container of chocolate cake frosting she bought for him to use on "a special occasion." "I should have asked for specifics, because it's driving me crazy thinking that he's eating too late in the evening. He's always had a sensitive stomach."
"Knowing Michael, he's probably eating fast food once a week," added Sampson. Indeed, since Monday, Michael has on four separate occasions dunked Wendy's chicken nuggets first into artificial nacho cheese, then into a large strawberry Frosty milkshake and consumed them.
"Oh well, he's a big boy now—I'm sure he can manage on his own," Sampson added, admitting that she planned to send him a 200-count bottle of multi-vitamins later in the week.
Her son could not be reached for comment, as he was licking the semi-coagulated grease from the wax packaging of a Jamaican beef patty.