University is pretty much universally renowned for being a place of exploration. Of excessive late nights, excessive drinking, excessive procrastination. A place to ‘find yourself’, or lose yourself, or figure out exactly who you are and what you want to do. How’s that going, by the way?
For the majority of people, it’s probably the first time in your eighteen years (or nineteen, or twenty, or twenty one; I’m all about inclusivity) that you’ll be completely, totally, one hundred percent in charge of exactly what you eat and when you eat it. Want a pizza at bed at three in the morning? Go for it. Fancy Weetabix Crispy Minis for breakfast, lunch and dinner for two solid weeks? Go crazy, there’s no judgement in halls. (Well, there’s some judgement in halls. But probably for very different reasons.) Craving fried chicken? Mile End Road will welcome you with open arms.
I managed on this diet for about a month of first year before I was driven home – ‘home home’ – in search of a proper meal, some vegetables (I know!) and a plate which I didn’t have to wash up with borrowed washing up liquid and a slowly dying sponge.
I’d started off with good intentions. I promise. I’d bought the student cookbook. I’d been gifted more cookbooks at every possible opportunity. My bag was literally overflowing with tips and tricks and shortcuts to make healthy meals, easily, cheaply, blah blah blah. And yet… Nandos was so close. Roosters was so close. There was a Costa across the road. There were cookies in the library, which I definitely deserved because I’d been there a full half an hour and I’d successfully found a plug that worked. Did I really need to cook?!
The short answer is yes. Yes, I definitely did. The long answer involves a new house, a rota for cooking duties and my slightly panicked realisation that pasta and pesto weren’t going to cut it that much longer, especially when half of my housemates decided to go on a health kick. No, I couldn’t wash up four times a week and never touch the oven; apparently that wasn’t fair. Cue me frantically googling ‘how to cook rice’, failing, and realising that this was going to be a steeper learning curve than I’d originally thought. But slowly, I’ve accepted that in order to at least pretend to be a fully functioning adult, I should be able to make something more than just pasta.
So, in an attempt to repay the people that’ve kept me vaguely healthy for the majority of my two years at uni, I’m learning to cook.
Foodie Confession no.1… I’m not very good. I’m a bit hopeless, actually. It’s taken me about six months to learn to turn our oven on properly, and I still get a bit scared that it’s broken and everything will just burn. So I might not be the most inspiring person to take on the task of writing a kind of ‘Recipe of the Week’, but I hope that, in exposing myself for the terrible cook that I am, I’ll be forced to learn. And by chronicling it here, in a weekly column in CUB, hopefully you can learn too. Learn or laugh. I’m fine with either.