September 20, 2018 | Narrative
cooking in dorms
how to feed yourself
The thought of college food brings absolute excitement to some, but a dull headache to others. I remember fretting over the regular vs. Flex meal plans the summer before my freshman year and finally choosing the latter. I chose to embrace the freedom of Flex, as I assumed I would eat out on Thayer Street. I also kept an open mind about the possibility of working on my undeveloped culinary skills in a dorm kitchen. With this mindset, I arrived on campus as a bright-eyed, eager freshman, ready to tackle my studies and nutritional goals.
After I had begun several loving relationships with Ratty oatmeal and omelettes, Andrews poké bowls, and Blue Room muffins, the appeal of university food choices eventually diminished. Meanwhile, I explored Thayer’s eateries with my new friends, who would describe me as a voracious eater. by CHLOE.’s Pesto Pasta and La Creperie’s Catherine crepe satiated my cravings. However, the expense of eating out for many meals was not sustainable on my student budget.
Ultimately, I turned to the Keeney kitchen.
Oven, check. Stove, check. Sink, check. I was ready to start cooking. Thankfully, I had purchased some basic cooking utensils when I first moved in, so all I needed to cook were some ingredients. Organizing a Whole Foods trip with my friends, I happily went grocery shopping and purchased eggs, stir-fry beef, prepackaged frozen tuna, and vegetables. I managed to make two edible, albeit slightly overcooked, dishes the next morning.
After these initial attempts at adulting, I established a schedule where I would cook every other weekend. One of my favorite dishes is the egg muffin, which is inspired by the Blue Room’s breakfast egg sandwiches. This is a foolproof recipe: simply preheat the oven to 375° F, coat the muffin tray with oil, add your choice of protein and vegetables into each of the muffin tins, fill them with a beaten egg and milk mixture, and then bake them for 15-20 minutes.
Over the course of my first year, I grew and adapted my culinary knowledge from a few basic recipes and ingredients to some truly delectable dishes. This school year, I’m employing the skills I gained from last year’s experience to cook in my sophomore dorm’s kitchen. As with many other skills, one’s cooking ability will improve with time, but these useful tips helped me to cook better in dorm kitchens: have basic cooking utensils, be creative with kitchen gadgets, use a few basic spices and recipes, and cook in bulk.
Dorm kitchens are not always well-stocked, so check that yours has the essential tools or get your own. Cooking will be easier when you have access to a knife, cutting board, can opener, stainless steel omelette pan, saucepan with a lid, sheet pan, and spatula. Designate a box to carry your cookware as well as other important kitchen supplies like oven mitts, food storage containers, aluminum foil, towels, heavy sponges, and dish soap.
Secondly, look beyond your basic cooking utensils and be creative with your kitchen gadgets. Having the right tools and knowing many ways to use them make cooking much easier and so much more fun. Let’s take muffin tins as an example. Other than making those delicious egg muffins, muffin tins can be used for brownie baking, mini sweet or savory pie making, and more. Another versatile tool is the mug. When you crave something more substantial than a beverage, try following an easy recipe for mug cakes, cookies, quiches, or even spaghetti. Adhere to the saying “quality over quantity,” and purchase high-quality multipurpose items so that you have cookware that will last you throughout your college career. The 20% off coupons at Bed Bath & Beyond are one way to make purchasing such kitchen utensils a good deal and investment.
After your Bed Bath & Beyond shopping trip, make a trip to the grocery store. Don’t forget to grab a few spices that can be added to virtually any recipe. Some of my favorites are teriyaki sauce and garlic powder—they make for a perfect marinade sauce and seasoning. Soak your choice of greens, chicken, pork, shrimp, or beef in teriyaki sauce for at least an hour before cooking to add a subtle, sweet flavor to the dish. With some garlic powder, you can garnish your pasta, seafood, or garlic bread for a wholesome, low-sodium meal. Ground dehydrated garlic is also a great addition to popcorn and nuts.
Keeping a few easy recipes on hand to practice will also make cooking simpler. Clear instructions and easy-to-source ingredients will make your cooking effortless. When you stick to recipes, you will also have an easy-to-follow routine that you can always count on.
With your simple recipes, you might overestimate the amount of ingredients you need and make a larger portion than intended when you’re first learning how to cook, but this is beneficial because you will have leftover food. When you have these cooked meals stored for the next day or two, you gain the security of not having to worry about what to eat, which is especially helpful during busy times.
College is an exciting phase of life, but be mindful of what your body needs. Everybody’s metabolism is different, so practice your dorm cooking and tailor it to feed your body healthy and nutritious meals. I am ready to tackle my second round of dorm cooking, so let’s embark together on this fun journey of food for both the body and the mind.