The Dorm Food Nightmare

When initially asked to write on this subject, I felt fairly qualified seeing as I have only recently graduated from college.  In my time spent there, I had lived in the dorms more so than off-campus.  This being the case, I am very aware of school cafeteria food.  This article is meant to supply you, the reader, with ideas on how to overcome the listless creations passed onto the weary student by his or her cafeteria team.  Even if you do not like to cook, you may find it necessary to wander into your dorm's kitchenette and grab a bite to eat.  Microwave popcorn and Ramen noodles aside, you won't starve.  Included in this article is a sample recipe; easy to prepare and perhaps most importantly, easy on the wallet.

Tips for the Want-To-Be-Chef

I saw opportunities to feed myself - and often times others - as expressionism.  Art, skill, and survival wrapped into one meal.  But resources were not always readily available as were cooking appliances.  Be sure to locate a well-equipped kitchenette or have access to an oven and a range.  Microwaves can re-heat pizza and boil water for cocoa but they can't cook everything.

Monthly allowance?  Pocket some of that hard earned cash for those times you know you'll want to avoid the cafeteria's Terrific Tuesday Blue Plate Special Supreme.  Expect to spend more than five dollars.  If you begin cutting coupons now, you'll be teaching yourself a valuable life lesson.

Time to stock the mini-fridge.  I know a lot can be crammed into those small bundles of cool.  Plan for some room to be taken up by frozen goods. And be wary of purchasing fresh produce and meats - left forgotten they will spoil.  Save the mold experiments for Biology Lab.  Save some shelf space next to your Calculus book for dried goods.

There is little point asking for a set of stainless steel cookware as a gift.  You can get by on items available through your dorm.  Ask in advance at your dormitory's office. Also, there's no shame in hinting to your parent's for a "pots and pans" donation at the beginning of the year.

With that said, let's cook!

You're probably already aware of the concept of boiling water. You're also prepared for your first meal - Vegetarian Stir-Fry.

    Today's produce industry is capable of taking a crop off of the field and immediately repackaging it into convenient, frozen bags.  Freshness is no longer an issue. And the variety is enough to send any student's head spinning.  Choose your favorite flavor.  Add a package of Ramen noodles (the one time I will allow this).  Find a pot and a skillet.

    In the pot, add a small amount of water (enough to cover the bottom) and the frozen vegetables.  Turn heat up to medium and cook until the vegetables are firm but not mushy.  Pour into a bowl.  In the same pan (cleaned) cook a package of Ramen noodles.  Drain the noodles and add a desired amount of the included flavoring.  Be aware that the included flavors are very high in sodium.

    Bring a medium frying pan or skillet up to temperature using high heat.  Add the noodles and vegetables.  Stir the mixture until hot.  Serve immediately.  If a frying pan is unavailable, the same pan used earlier can suffice.  Total time preparation time - 10 minutes.

Now that your first meal is conquered, allow me to suggest some additional meal greats.

  1. While some student live off pizza, it isn't necessarily a staple.  But the occasional pie can be a source for not only the day's nutrition but also the day's entertainment.  The first ingredient: about a half a dozen people.  Add roughly a few bucks a head and a vehicle.  Go shopping.  You're looking for frozen dough, cans of pizza sauce, and a favorite topping for each person. Pizza pans should be available through your dormitory or someone you know who lives off-campus.  Conventional wisdom says that too many chefs in the kitchen spoils the broth.  Throw that out the window.  Have fun, be creative.  Try to keep the sauce on the pizza and not your friends.
  2. I learned this my freshman year: a bag of potatoes and some aluminum foil can go a very, very long way.  My Resident Assistant surrounded himself with eager frosh by merely providing a small piece of said foil for each of his Residents.  We were responsible for our own potato (though he conveniently had them available for a price).  The rest of the evening was spent not burning ourselves on the foiled potato as it came out of the oven and running to the television to watch Rush Limbaugh.  Cheap food; cheap entertainment. For an added thrill, have everyone pitch in and purchase a tub of sour cream.
The driving forces behind dorm cooking are cost, convenience, and creativity.  Your basics, such as dried soup mixes, can serve to start off any meal.  Stock up before the school year begins and don't forget to share the experience with others.  As the saying goes "Give a student a meal and feed him for a day; Teach a student how to cook and feed him for a semester."

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