We were greeted at the door by the server who was also the chef at the restaurant. He sat us down on the couch and told us to feel at home while he cooked our meal. On his way to the open concept kitchen, he told us we were also welcome to use the TV and the wireless internet.
The restaurant prides itself on dishes characterized by speed, taste, large quantities and value. The main entrees on the menu included mac n’ cheese with a side option of canned tuna, instant noodles and pizza pockets. Dessert offerings ranged from a spoonful of Nutella, instant pudding or a granola bar.
By the time the food arrived, we had already pulled out our laptops and were typing away our papers at the coffee table. We dined by the light of our monitors as we romanced our studies.
As time and money are limited resources for students, and so many would rather eat out cheaply or cook instant meals instead, this is what I would envision the dining experience to be like if traditional student cuisine was served in restaurants: instant meals in front of your work.
I often hear students talk about time spent on grocery shopping, cooking and eating as a waste. But I feel differently and I hope this article will change this popular opinion and perhaps instill in the reader a larger sense of appreciation for the experience of cooking for oneself.
Rather than being a waste of time and energy, think of the time spent on grocery shopping, cooking and eating not only as a break from the books but also as an adventurous process whereby you’re gathering nutrients to fuel your body and mind, combining them in interesting ways, and then enjoying your efforts on your own, or with a few friends.
Personally, I find cooking to be highly therapeutic. It teases the senses. My sense of smell is transformed by odours of ingredients: the raw, fresh smell of a red pepper that turns fragrant and sweet when warmed. It stimulates touch: the roughness of a broccoli, the smooth and soft surface of a tomato. Visually, the colours of the ingredients can be so enticing. And, aurally: the knife rhythmically hitting the chopping board accompanied by the melody of a sizzling pan.
Cooking isn’t just a means to an end; it is so much more than that. For example, it is an outlet for creative expression, a venue for learning outside of the classroom and an opportunity for socializing. Cooking lets me combine and experiment with different flavours and ingredients from around the world. It has taught me patience (the 45 minutes it takes to bake a chicken turns into decades when I’m hungry and can smell it from my bedroom) and perseverance (those eggs will stop getting stuck to the pan at some point!). I have also learnt a lot about nutrition through cooking my own food and choosing interesting recipes. Through cooking, my curiosity has been piqued and I make it a habit to read food labels and I challenge myself to eat as healthy as possible most days. Cooking has also allowed me to form special connections with my friends when we cook for one another, or sometimes even together.
So I urge you, however reluctant you are, to try and spend more time shopping and cooking instead of eating out. When you combine whole grains, colourful vegetables and fruits, and your favourite meat, fish or legumes, with an attitude of adventure, it’s can be an incredible process that nourishes your body and your mind. Give it a try!
If you aren’t too familiar with cooking yet, follow these nutritious and tasty recipes. If you’d like some company and engaging discussions while you cook, check out the Community Kitchens Program at Hart House!
What are your feelings on cooking? Do you know how to cook? Who taught you? What’s your favourite dish to cook?