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College Chat: Cooking in College

Cooking in college is a trial-by-fire experience… often literally if you aren’t privy to what can be put in the microwave. My college cooking career started off with a case of Mountain Dew and EasyMac, and 15 pounds later was followed by some healthier options, but nothing that required too much effort.

As the years go on, you graduate to microwave popcorn, salsa and chips and sometimes even Lean Cuisines. You realize that you can no longer afford to buy new pairs of jeans every time you indulge in too much late night pizza and cheesy bread.

I spent much of my life avoiding traditional home-making skills, for example, casually refusing to remember how to sew, never making my bed, and being a safety hazard in the kitchen. This served me well, until one day during my study abroad when I realized that I would either die of starvation or obesity if I didn’t learn how to cook a well balanced meal. From then on, dinner time became a comedic sort of war zone. Sometimes I won; sometimes I lost, but every time I laughed. At this point in my college career, my food is still never pretty, but it is almost always edible. That was not always the case.

My hesitance towards cooking began when I was about 14 and my little sister was seven. I was babysitting her one night and she made it clear, in her seven-year-old way, that she was going to mutiny if I didn’t make her some mac-and-cheese. I reluctantly obliged, but was so absorbed in a book that I forgot to check on the noodles for a while. A while turned into a half hour, and she ended up screaming even more about the mushy burnt dish and has continued to make fun of me for the outcome of that night. I admit it, I burnt Kraft macaroni and cheese, and after that, I was dubbed the worst cook in the house. I couldn’t forgive myself until that semester abroad in Scotland when I realized that cereal wasn’t an every meal food.

Once I had my own kitchen and was an ocean away from my macaroni-based shame, I started experimenting. Pasta was my biggest mental roadblock after the incident in 2004, but once I successfully made some, it was all downhill. Soon enough, I was a self-proclaimed master chef. I made homemade pumpkin squash soup for Thanksgiving and hand-sliced baked potato wedges with breakfast most mornings. You could often find me cooking up a mean baked chicken with balsamic tomatoes and took the baking world by storm. By the time I got home junior year, I was able to cook for my family with confidence and prove to them that Easymac was no longer the only sheriff in town. They were shocked, and my sister was pretty unhappy that she had one less thing to use against me, but I do believe she is enjoying my culinary success deep down in her mushy macaroni heart.

All that being said, my biggest victory was today. I took a break from writing this particular article to make myself breakfast (fried eggs, sautéed tomato and onions with a little salsa verde and toast, in case you were wondering…) and offered to make some extra for my roommates. Only one said yes, and after putting his food on a plate, I settled back into my writing chair to tell you about my experiences with mac-and-cheese. Just moments ago, he turned to me and said, “You make the best fried eggs.”

Yes. Yes, I do.

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