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Collegiette Cooking: Food Porn Meets Dorm Kitchen Reality

 

Picture me in my 600 dorm kitchen, standing on an instable chair, bent over that little stove with my smart phone to take a high-exposure shot of my freshly-made and perfectly presented goat cheese pasta.  Unfortunately, this unnatural look proves the dangerous influence of Smitten Kitchen, the website and now cookbook of Deb Perelman, small-kitchen sufferer and Instagram-worshipper just like you and me.  Whereas most crabby social media users decry food photos as self-indulgent or even boring, Smitten Kitchen’s utterly faultless, high-resolution snapshots are its main draw.  I would venture to say that the majority of its young adult readers, of which there are legions, have never even tried one of Deb’s recipes in their own pint-sized kitchens but still scroll longingly through pages and pages of what many who follow pop culture call “food porn.” 

I have two possible explanations for this: the first is pure nostalgia for the warmth of home cooking, and the second is the reassurance an urban girl feels knowing that such seasonally-appropriate masterpieces as “ethereally smooth hummus” and “lemony zucchini goat cheese pizza” can emerge from a 42-square-foot galley kitchen.  It keeps our delusions alive and existent.  We begin to think, “if only I had a damn food processor or a pizza stone I’d definitely make this for dinner tonight,” then we end up at John Jay or the irresistible falafel cart…again.  Maybe Smitten Kitchen, with Deb’s cheerful and self-deprecating voice that had me thinking maybe I could whip up a mushroom tart this week, is simply too advanced to be realistic for a time-pressed student.  I’ll browse right through it when I need some inspiration, and if I were one of those people with Pinterest, I’d pin the crap out of it. 

But what’s the solution to the creative desire to cook tasty meals at our home away from home without an army of small appliances or an assorted herb garden on your windowsill?  I think I may have found it ion AllRecipes.com, a website displaying a vast database of user-submitted recipes. The smart phone application version is called “The Dinner Spinner,” a remarkably useful tool for searching top-rated recipes by meal type, ingredients, and cooking time.  If you have a bag of pita bread and you want to eat dinner before class, search Bread + Dinner + 20 Minutes or Less, and you’ll end up finding a glorious pita pizza, rated five stars by 139 amateur chefs just like yourself.  There will always be a place in my heart for Smitten Kitchen (and even in my stomach on particularly ambitious weekends), but what’s most important is realizing that the food you make in your kitchenette doesn’t need to be camera-ready to be satisfying and imaginative.  But please just don’t put it on Instagram unless it is.

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