I've always loved to cook, so for me this change wasn't and adverse change. I actually have been on the '40-swipe' plan (as it's so-called) since the beginning of my junior year when I lived in an apartment on North Campus, and I lived in Burlington both this past summer and the summer previously. Given these circumstances, making my own food all the time wasn't much of a change. But it's also true that active students don't often have much time to spare, and cooking becomes an obstacle rather than an opportunity. I like to use cooking as a time to reflect or unwind, and that's due in large part to my 'kitchen toolbox', or the skills and knowledge I've gained that allow me to plan meals and prepare them efficiently. These take a long time to acquire, but there are still a few things that college students in-crisis can use to make cooking work better in their lives. I propose five:
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- Always have pasta. Or rice, or quinoa, or something that takes little oversight, not too much time, that you can put anything on. Eating pasta all the time isn't necessarily the best option, but the idea is to identify some versatile, filling staple to have in your cupboard that you like to eat. If you have this staple, then all you need in addition is a sauce, maybe some veggies and maybe some protein. You'd be surprised how many times I've enjoyed eating white rice covered in some mix of peanut butter, soy sauce, spices, and veggies.
- Cereal and milk. It works for breakfast if you're someone who doesn't have much time in the morning, or if you don't wanna turn on any appliances. It also works as a late-night snack, or a lunch/dinner in a pinch. I'll also add plain instant oatmeal to this bullet point (and to number 1), because not only is it something you can eat plain with milk, or with maple syrup/cinnamon&sugar in the morning, but oatmeal can also be the quickest versatile filling staple for any meal. I didn't used to eat much oatmeal because I thought of it as something only eaten sweet, but a trick I learned from one of my mentors on campus is to add black beans, cheese and Sriracha (if you'd like) for a 5-minute dinner on the go. You can pretty much treat it like rice, and it's instant.
- Apples, bananas, oranges. These snacks are healthy and pre-wrapped by nature. Better than junk snacks you buy at the store, and about the same price. Plus apples give you energy.
- Use a cookbook. I have two cookbooks that I keep next to my bed in case of an emergency and/or if I'd just like something to read. My parents got me the Ultimate Vegetarian cookbook last Christmas (pictured), and it's nearly on-par with Harry Potter given the number of times I've read it. My obsessions aside, cookbooks are nice because you might find a recipe to tie together whatever you have in the kitchen, or you might use a few recipes to plan a grocery list. The latter is nice if you're someone who needs direction in a grocery store because, not only do you know exactly what you're cooking later, but you can also save time wandering the clockless aisles of cereal boxes and soup cans.
- Framily dinners. Framily (friend + family) dinners are great 'cause they can be done potluck-style, or in such a way that everyone chips in a few bucks, or in such a way that a group of friends rotate dinners at one-another's houses every so often. This is great because it takes pressure off when someone else is cooking, and one can look forward to cooking for everyone else because it's not something one has to do all the time. Plus, this is a great way to ensure spending time with friends that are otherwise busy, and everyone gets a meal out of it.
Don't let cooking scare you, food is one of the best ways to get together and be merry with the ones we love. And if we don't have that time, food can also be a moment of reflection in an otherwise busy day, and a way to repay the body for all the hard work it's done for us.
Thanks for reading, and happy cooking!