I Tried Cooking For A Week And Here's What Happened

Four simple words are all I need to sum up this experience: appreciate your parents’ cooking.

Having food on my plate was something that I always took for granted, whether it was freshly steaming on the table at home or being rationed to me in the school cafeteria. I never questioned how it got there until my stomach and fridge were both equally empty. As any college student knows, you can only procrastinate for so long. So I took to my own devices and went to the grocery store. This act in itself made me realize that there’s a whole other world out there I didn’t know about: making a shopping list, planning meals, figuring out how to cook meals, pushing a shopping cart alone, and having to fork out my own money to pay for food (ouch). It’s all just the beginning.

Maneuvering the kitchen is an entirely different story. I’d like to say that I effortlessly waltzed from counter to counter as if I had years of experience like Julia Child, but my metaphor would be much more accurate if I compared myself to a deaf person in a record store. Where to start? I must have called my mom at least seven times in the course of an hour: how do you know when a chicken is fully cooked? Do you have to heat up vegetable oil before putting anything else in the pan? Why did my food explode all over the microwave? Take it from me, parents deserve way more credit than they are given. When something is baking in the oven, cooking on the stove, and heating up in the microwave, it can be hard to keep your cool. Too long in one spot and BAM, all that effort only to result in burnt chicken. Not all heroes wear capes. Some of them carry spatulas.

Instead of potentially burning down my very first apartment by attempting my most spectacular meal yet, I decided the best method of pursuit would be through a college student’s best friend: the crock pot. Profoundly simple yet incredibly effective. And, of course, what better way to start than with a comfort food favorite of macaroni and cheese. It actually couldn’t be any simpler. Throw in the cooked macaroni, melted cheese, a dollop of sour cream and let it simmer for the next six hours, stirring once or twice. Open up the lid and voila! I’d like to congratulate you on making mac n’ cheese that could uphold Cracker Barrel’s standards. I quickly threw a burger on a George Foreman grill for five minutes and soon had myself the perfect Sunday afternoon meal.

Considering nothing caught fire or was significantly damaged, I was feeling confident enough to give Salmon a shot. This slippery specimen can seem pretty intimidating at first, but once I got past the scales I realized there wasn’t much to it. All I had to do was wrap it up in tinfoil and pop it in the oven. To add an extra kick I mixed a powdered packet of Hollandaise sauce that you heat on the stove with milk and butter. For a delectable and healthy side, I sliced up a sweet potato to replace French fries. Cut them into ¼ inch thick slices, coat in vegetable oil, then throw them in the oven with the Salmon! Once I moved past the mental block of actually getting into the kitchen, it became much more clear that putting time into my food could be enjoyable. I also learned that left overs are a shamefully underappreciated commodity, because they can be served for lunch the next day or as another small side. (Sometimes I eat them as a side and for lunch. I love carbs.)

I’ll never actually admit it to my mom, seeing that we the stubborn youth must never wave the white flag, but cooking is really starting grow on me. I want to try more recipes, throw a little bit of this in with that, top a meal off with an unexpected flavor. As adventurous as I am, I’m still a part of the millennial generation, so I Google new recipes. This ‘being creative with food’ thing can get mentally exhausting seven days a week. After making my own modifications, I settled on ranch breaded chicken. Also much easier than it sounds, simply drench chicken in ranch, roll it in breadcrumbs, wrap it in tinfoil and bake in the oven. You can boil couscous and green beans on the stove for a simple side. I also realized that putting my food on white plates gives it a bit of a classier feel, not to mention making it look fancy compared to the average Ramen noodle dish. Ramen is a great quick fix, but being able to prepare a quality meal is a great hidden talent to showcase. These are our first years of true independence, so branching out in to an area like cooking can reveal all kinds of new possibilities. Who knows, you might be able to win over that special someone with a steaming plate of macaroni and cheese. (Maybe something a little more eloquent might set a better tone for the big first date, but if macaroni is their food of choice I can tell you they’re a keeper.) 

Find a food you like, look up a recipe and give it a shot. Just keep a fire extinguisher close by for the first few attempts.