The Importance of Learning to Cook in College
by Jonah Brown, ’14
“We have to start eating well. And the only way to eat well is to know how to cook,”
- Will Levitt, blogger and founder of DormRoomDinner.com.
In college, students learn how to think critically, write, and be creative. But typically, students don’t learn how to cook. Yet cooking is one of the most important skills a person can have. It’s all the more important in a country where more than 35 percent of the adult population is obese; eating fast food for every meal is not an acceptable substitute for cooking meals at home.
For many students, college the first time they are away from their parents and the first time they have to be self-sufficient for their meals. They may have meal plans, but those aren’t something they can rely on forever. This is a skill that they have to learn on their own.
Allie Smith, ’12, says, “I cooked a little bit in high school, but I really learned how to cook when I got to college. If I hadn’t learned how to cook I don’t know what I would be eating now that I don’t have a meal plan or anything.”
Not having the skills to cook healthy meals is a problem that many students face when they graduate. They go through college eating at the cafeteria for every meal and avoid developing skills to make their own food.
Kasey Lambert, ’12, says, “I ate at Saga for every meal and now that I’m back home, working and living with my dad, it’s been weird not having every meal just be prepared for you.”
Heating up ramen in the microwave isn’t cooking. Eating microwaveable food isn’t something that people can do for the rest of their lives. Therefore, students should start learning to cook in college, so they’re prepared for the real world. Making extravagant meals isn’t necessary right away, but starting with something simple and easy like spaghetti is a great way to get going. Starting with the basics can teach people about using quality ingredients that can contribute to a healthy lifestyle.
Sam Selisch, ’14, says, “Now that I’m off campus, I’ve started to cook different things with my roommates. Rice, noodles, breakfast, that kind of thing.” Selisch talks about going to the grocery store for the first time and not knowing what to look for or what to buy. But now with some experience, he knows what healthy foods to buy, and what to avoid.
According to Levitt, the blogger quoted above, “In a nation where diet-related deaths have increased dramatically and eating has become not only a personal issue but a social and political one, we are not teaching students one of the easiest ways to improve the quality of their life and the vitality of their communities.”
Selisch agrees: “I think it’s really important for us to learn to know what foods we should be eating and what foods we should be avoiding when we’re young.” Fast food and frozen dinners aren’t healthy food that a person can live off of. They also aren’t food that parents can be feeding their children when that time comes.
Some people hate cooking and try to avoid it at all costs. It’s something that takes up time and can be frustrating and time-consuming. Also, some students would rather spend that time doing homework, working out, or resting. Everyone tends to have a bad experience with cooking, whether it’s cooking way too many noodles or adding baking soda instead of baking powder. It’s all a part of the learning experience.
Cooking doesn’t have to be a chore. It can be a chance to express creativity, develop new techniques, and even open doors to opportunities that may not have been there without cooking. College is the perfect time to explore new things and discover new passions.
Smith is still finding out new things about cooking. She says, “It’s fun just to try new things and break away from the recipes sometimes. There’s a bunch of different things you can do with food and exploring those is an awesome way to find out things you like that you might not have known about before.”