Ahmed: College cooking not worth the hassle

By Abdul Ahmed

No, I’m not going to sit here and dish out cutesy little recipes. And on the off-chance such… No, I’m not going to sit here and dish out cutesy little recipes. And on the off-chance such drivel would slip from my tongue, I would surely not end the conversation with a lie like, “You can do it, too.”

Okay. Maybe I’m being too harsh, but I don’t want to be led on any further that I’m capable of making quick, snappy meals. Truth is, I’m not — and a lot of other college people aren’t either.

There are a few reasons why you shouldn’t try to cook yourself.

The most obvious is, if you’re living in a dorm, cooking is nearly impossible. According to the Residential Handbook from Panther Central, the following key items are not permitted: toasters, toaster ovens, hot plates, cup warmers, indoor grills and open-flame cooking devices. Surely, safety is a concern here. But without so much as a space heater, how are you going to get the water to boil?

Personally, I don’t like zapping things in the microwave. Something about that seems unsafe.

So maybe you’re not living in a dorm; maybe you’re one of the free spirits. The apartment life is splendid and the presence of a kitchen gets you itching to fire up the oven. Let’s think about that first.

Take the simple Chipotle or Qdoba chicken burrito. Into that simple burrito goes cooked and seasoned rice, boiled beans, a steamed flour tortilla, salsa, lettuce, condiments and, of course, grilled chicken cutlets. That’s a lot of work to prepare. And this one simple dish needs too many different ingredients. Gathering the bulk materials needed to make such burritos more than once at home would require investing hours in the acquisition and transport of food from faraway grocery stores. With heavy class and extracurricular commitments, the cabinet-stocking exercise quickly becomes too cumbersome. It’s just easier to stroll down to your favorite Mexican grill and pick up a burrito.

There is always cost to consider. Granted, making food at home is sometimes cheaper than buying out. But often, it’s not. Consider the ingredients for that burrito. You have to buy and prepare each ingredient, and whatever you don’t use not only stinks up your cabinet, it rips a hole in your wallet. If you have half a bag of rice left over because you only needed a spoonful, well then absorb that cost. If you have chicken left over but didn’t get to make another burrito in time, and the chicken spoiled, absorb the cost.

Let’s talk about time. You’re busy. You’ve got a Functional Neuroanatomy exam in a few days, not to mention an essay for that random gen-ed which you are so passionate about. Add to that somnolence and a degree of negligence, and you’re in for a few fun-filled nights at Hillman. Do you really need the added time-drain of preparing your meal? Just buy the food at one of the many cafeterias or eateries, and get it done.

Speaking about getting it done, eating at a cafeteria or restaurant saves you more time. You don’t have to prepare the meal, and you also don’t have to clean up after. Everything happens in one place.

And there are so many places to eat. You just can’t recreate in the kitchen the culinary variety eating out can provide you. Besides the cafeterias, consider the restaurants. If you like Mexican food, you have Chipotle, Qdoba and Veracruz right here on Forbes, or even La Fiesta on Atwood. You can also get your weekly dose of chicken tikka masala or rice and curry at a few places. India Garden on Atwood, Tandoor Indian Grill on Centre, Tamarind on North Craig and even Prince of India on Fifth are great places to start looking.

And if that won’t satisfy you, pizza joints abound. Antoon’s, Milano’s, Pizza Sola and Pizza Pronto are ideal places to check out — if convenience is priority. Pizza Hut is a decent backup plan.

Given just this sampling of mainstream places to eat, why bother with cooking in the first place? We have to consider tradition. Tradition says that college students do not and will not eat healthy. We will become more familiar with Ramen noodles and vending machine snacks than fennel seeds and rosemary. What’s rosemary seasoning anyway?

For those of you who do manage to find the time, energy and will to prepare your food, hats off to you. I couldn’t do it myself. It takes a lot to learn the skills and patience cooking requires. And learning that early in college will definitely make you more prepared for this so-called real world we’re supposed to magically enter at the end.

Email Abdul at [email protected]