Cooking at university

An image of university of kent students in a student kitchenThe million dollar question that both my mum and grandma frequently ask me after 30 seconds of being on the phone is ‘have you eaten?’ Followed immediately by, ‘what did you eat?’ Sometimes my honesty gets the better of me and I bravely answer, ‘no I haven’t eaten…yet.’ *Que the next bunch of food related questions* ‘Okay, so why not? When are you going to eat? What are you going to eat? It’s *insert time in the late afternoon* and you haven’t eaten, how?!’ ‘Call me after you’ve eaten, how can you study on an empty stomach? … Bye.’ No exaggeration, the conversations usually go like that. Most times these phone calls occur whilst I’m in bed on an ‘off’ day with studying being the last thing on my lazy mind. In first year, my Whatsapp conversations with my grandma predominately consisted of images of my meals as proof that I was nurturing my body, getting my daily intake of greens, and not living off cereal or pizza as I often did (do).

The above suggests, as well as common sense, that food is super important for both student and their parents. At times cooking meals after long days, whether that be days in a lab, a lecture theatre, seminar room or just in bed mentally plagued by deadlines and academic things to do can appear tedious.
Since the middle of first year (when I made a solid group of friends) until now, being in my final year, my friends and I have always had ‘cook ups’. I have personally found these super fun and exciting, it reduces the element of procrastination when it comes to making dinner. The following points below should encourage you and your social group to do the same. Good luck!

1. What is a ‘cook up’?
It’s pretty simple – people & food. Lots of it. Good vibes, music, games etc. It can be seen as something to look forward to after deadlines, busy schedules etc. There are times when you don’t have the opportunity to just unwind with friends. A way of social interaction, welcoming the new friend who’s been on your course forever but you’ve just never invited out, maybe? This usually involves a group of people making specific dishes or providing snacks, drinks, hosting etc.

2. What do I need in order for this to be a success?
A home, big enough for everyone to feel comfortable and relaxed but not too big to reduce the sense of community/closeness. A space – whether it be a kitchen or a front room that can be occupied by the group. A kitchen – of course. You’ll also need to ensure that the other housemates are okay with the evening being held in their home too. If you are living on campus, make sure not to inconvenience others who may be wanting to use the kitchen/communal area, be considerate about the noise (campus watch alert) and space you will be occupying – maybe extend an invitation to your flat/housemates? You’ll need music for the atmosphere, if you’re into card games or if your friends are, then cards. Card games are always entertaining, watching competitive friends become…competitive, learning new games, frequently repeating the rules to the friend that just as frequently ‘forgets’ them and denies all claims of cheating etc.
Don’t have expectations, go with the flow, it’s meant to be a relaxed afternoon/evening.

3. How many people should I invite?
I’d say not too big a party that it becomes hectic and less chilled but any number of friends is fine. As little or as many people as you chose.

4. What if I’m not too keen on cooking?
Not a problem! You and your friends can find alternatives to include everyone in the evening. You can contribute to the meal by setting and clearing up the table, or area of dinning, do the washing up or cleaning up. This works really well as tasks are spread out fairly and evenly. In first year, my friends and I, provided a dish each, some brought drinks, desserts etc and one of my friends who wasn’t (& still isn’t) very keen on cooking, unfortunately missed out on the opportunity to buy snacks, offered to do the washing up. This task can be split amongst the group, for example someone does the pots, cutlery, cleans the oven and so forth.

5. How often should these occur?
As often or as little as you guys prefer. With people having varying timetables and different priorities, dates will change. Whenever you feel it’s needed, once a month, once every two months, twice a month – at the beginning and the end of the month, twice every semester- it’s really up to you. It also depends on your financial situation, can you afford to provide snacks, drinks and buy various ingredients every week?

6. What can I do entertainment wise?
Games (board, video, card etc), debates if you’re feeling super smart and studious, recite poetry (not with food in your mouth – obviously), dance, eat in silence and go straight home afterwards – whatever you and your friends feel like doing!

7. Where can I find inspiration?
University is a diverse institution, with friendship groups formed of people from different backgrounds and cultures, inspiration can be found in this. Introduce your friends to some cultural dishes, or your favourite childhood meal, recreate something you’ve seen on Masterchef/Come Dine With Me, or maybe just something you scrape up for yourself will do? Try a vegan or vegetarian night!

8. What about the cost?
Have a budget, decide a figure that everyone feels comfortable with and split it. Nice and simple. Alternatively, people could contribute to particular items e.g. vegetables, drinks, snacks, chicken, grains etc. It shouldn’t be expensive unless you can afford to ball out with your student loan…

Hope this post was helpful in providing ideas on how to make cooking fun at university!

This post is by Jeannelle Brew