Dorm Cookin' - the First Meal I Ever Cooked


Think back and tell me: what was the the first meal that you can remember preparing for other people?

The first time I can remember making food for others was during my freshman year at The Ohio State University in beautiful Columbus, Ohio.  I was living in Lincoln tower, and if you're familiar at all with the campus at OSU, you'll recognize the strangely-shaped towers that are overlooking the football stadium on the west side of the main campus - Lincoln and Morrill Towers. Each of those dorms have 23 floors, and I lived on the 17th floor of Lincoln Tower. On the 15th floor of Lincoln was the main office along with a lounge that boasted a very tiny kitchenette. Now, any kitchen has more than what we had in our actual dorm rooms themselves, which had the classic black micro fridge apparatus, which was a very short refrigerator with a microwave attached to the top.

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my first home away from home

and my first foray into the kitchen

The residents of the residence hall could reserve the kitchen space on the main floor and even have access to a set of pots and pans that were obviously donated from someone who couldn't find the nearest thrift store drop-off spot. Beggars can't be choosers, right? I don't remember the specifics of that particular meal, but I'm pretty sure that it was pasta with tomato sauce, and it may have even included those infamous meatballs my mom taught me how to make that I'd mentioned in another episode. The point of it was that this was a meal, and it was fresh, and I made it.

I remember it feeling so good to cook for my friends - and for myself for that matter. It also felt good to know that I had options for what I could do while living in college, and that there are other things I could do for dinner rather than just relying completely on your campus food service or eating out or ordering pizza (not that any of those things weren't amazingly delicious, though, the cafeteria food did have its moments).

What I'm saying is that knowing how to cook a few simple meals can bring a young person like that a great deal of independence. It gives them options - options that allow them to eat something other than what’s being offered at the cafeteria or nearby restaurants. Just like I pointed out in an earlier post, moving away from processed foods or food service means you’re not paying someone else to prepare the food for you, which means there’s a good chance you can save a bit of money in the process (and what college student doesn’t want to save a few extra bucks here and there).

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my first off-campus kitchen

it wasn’t much, but it didn’t need to be.

What every college student should know how to do

Boil water

To some of us, this may seem like too simple of a starting point, but I’ve been told by trusted sources that there are people in there twenties and even into their thirties who are inexperienced at even the basic function of boiling water (let alone seasoning it properly). Once a young man or woman gets comfortable with this skill, they have opened up an almost endless realm of culinary possibilities - pasta, pasta salad, rice, quinoa, polenta, oatmeal… The list goes on and on. Not only are these dishes easy once they’ve learned how, but starches are usually an inexpensive source of nutrition and satiety (fills you up, and we all know the appetites of these college kids).

Fry an egg

If you’re over the initial shock of discovering that people don’t know how to boil water, you won’t be as surprised to know that there are many among us who are unaware of how to cook an egg. Eggs are an affordable source of protein that can be cooked a number of different ways: scrambled, fried, poached, boiled, etc. They don’t have to be served just at breakfast either - you can make egg salad, quiche, omelets, or simply fry one up and throw it on your burger! Which reminds me…

Cook a burger

What could be easier than taking a store-bought burger patty, browning it on both sides, melting some cheese over top, and putting it on a bun?! Well, there are plenty of young people who would be intimidated by the process - afraid to over-cook or under-cook the burger. The simple solution to that is getting them a cheap instant-read thermometer and teach them how to use it. Once you do that, you’ve given them the key to burger it up any time, any day.

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See how much joy a simple burger can bring?

So I want to encourage you, if you're a mom or a dad or you have kids in your life that are getting ready to live out on their own: spend some time with them teaching them the things that you know in the kitchen.  Don't feel like, just because they're 16 or 17 or 18, that there still aren't some things you can teach them before they head off to college or start a family of their own. There are still plenty of things that you can do for them to to equip them to be more independent and to be more confident in the kitchen.

So what are some things that you can teach your kiddos? What are some things that you know in the kitchen that you are confident in that you can teach to them right now? I would love to know what your next steps are in building into your your kiddos that sense of confidence, and kitchen competence to be able to cook for themselves and for their friends. Let me know in the comments section of this post. or send me an email or or shoot me a message on Facebook. I would love to hear from you and know what your next steps are. I'd also like to know what are some things that I can do to help encourage you in this effort to teach your young people or not so young people anymore. What are some things that you would like to teach them that maybe you're not in a position to teach? Let me know, and I'll see what I can do to to come alongside of you in building up this next generation to be as good if not better in the kitchen than ours was.

Thank you so much for being a part of my home cooking community and I will see you in the kitchen.

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bonus tip: kids’ drink mixes also make suitable hair dyes!