Cooking in college beats eating quickly
October 2, 2009
Cooking. Just the word makes me think of good old Martha Stewart with a rigid smile slit across her face, leaning on a Formica counter covered in dry ingredients. Sometimes Ms. Julia Child lets out a belly-laugh and smacks the counter with a raw chicken. Both ladies have proven themselves very able, genuine chefs. They possess the artful patience needed to decipher a recipe and eventually make their own. Lucky for us, it’s all on tape, too.
College. Enter classes, involvements and social activities. While students never forget about food, we do remember time constraints better. Martha can pretty much keep to her damn self unless she plans to feed us by the end of 30 minutes. There does not need to be an explanation why college students do not always eat a balanced diet: just peek into our backpacks. There might be a candy bar smashed between the books we cram in there.
So when a person creates the equation “cooking+college=?” what replaces the question mark? Plainly, it varies by student.
There are those that can miraculously look at a slab of chicken and produce something so amazing we can’t even pronounce it. Then there are the others, the ones who try, who read the recipe, meticulously measure the ingredients to a point where it hurts, and anxiously take that first bite, then spit it out. The drama ensues: what went wrong? What do I do now? What’s the number to Jimmy John’s? It’s a vicious, discouraging and financially challenging cycle.
Yet there’s hope. We can learn from those that feel bad for us or are sick of feeding us. I’m learning every day, and boy, is it enriching.
Did you know chicken likes to be eaten in white sauce, while beef enjoys red? Or that Mac and Cheese no longer constitutes an actual meal and no one is impressed? It’s true; not even chopped hot dogs save us now. I learned that good cooking takes even more time.
Well, with not much time to share with the skillet, am I and others like me (I know you exist, and don’t be ashamed) doomed until graduation? No! Don’t let hope slip through your hungry, unusually skinny fingers! There is even more help than the roommates! There are cookbooks for college students, and more conveniently, online sources for quick, easy meals. Go ahead and Google it. Type www.yumyum.com into your browser. It has a whole section dedicated to students who want to cook food they can actually eat.
The other weekend, my parents came to visit. The apartment was clean and everything was in order. I just had to cook — and I was ready.
My weapon of choice was soy sauce and chicken breast was my victim. Using appropriate cutlery I made sure that chicken became bite-sized and learned to like it. The rice was so scared it cooked to puffy perfection and it was me who made the onions cry. When my parents knocked on the door, I had created Kung Pao Chicken. It was so fantastic in appearance it had its own soundtrack created by Danny Elfman.
Once the food was dished up, I felt the anxiety Britney Spears must feel when passing a brownie. My father took a hearty bite, my moth- er a little more cautious… she did share a kitchen with me for many years. Nod- ding and grunting happy noises as they chewed, my parents confirmed it was a success!
I was so happy it was all I could do to not do the 80’s movie freeze jump and let the credits roll. In theory: Cooking+college=possible.
<b>Laura Krawczyk</b> is a student at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.