Cullen-ary Cooking Off-Campus

By Christian Cullen, Staff Writer

Living off campus certainly has its highs and lows. Longer commutes to campus, a new lifestyle to get used to, and a marked decrease in use of the Caf.

Entering this new stage of college life, I was somewhat worried about how I would adjust. The Caf becomes something you just take for granted over your time at Xavier. From 8:00 AM to 9:00 PM, it’s there with food ready and available. Instead of living off the omelet line with delicious fresh food from Ms. Reese, I would have to worry about meal prepping for the week. The first two years of Xavier were just the appetizer for living off campus and cooking my own meals. 

There were a lot of new things to grapple with. I realized that Aldi is a much better shopping experience than Kroger, with the price difference being quite significant. I had to make lists of the expiration dates to be sure I knew when food would go bad. I had to decide if I would get lunch somewhere on campus or to walk back home to UStation. I finally, truly, understood what my mom meant when she said, “we have food at home.” 

Now, I’m not a complete novice in the kitchen. I’ve been learning how to cook for a good amount of time now, but that was admittedly with the assistance of someone who graduated cooking school helping me along the way. 

Thanks Mom!

 Instead of years of recipes under my belt and supreme knowledge of spices, temperatures, and sauces, I was stuck guessing about the time it will take to defrost my chicken. I felt out of my depth. I can make a mean penne alla vodka, but it’s a whole different situation when you are the one buying the groceries, prepping the meal, and deep cleaning the kitchen afterwards. I felt like the heat in the kitchen was getting to be too much. 

I knew I had always liked cooking before coming to college, so I was a bit worried when it was turning into more of a chore for me than a joy. I talked to friends who live off campus as well, and they would say how simple and quick their meals were, albeit that they were frozen meals. However, I have found my groove and sharpened my skills. I’ve been finding budget meals that will feed me over the course of days. I’ve tried different types of food while also making sure that I did not try to become a celebrity chef in the kitchen. Most importantly, I made cooking fun again. What was on its way to becoming a chore is now something I look forward to on Sundays. Figuring out what I’m good at cooking, and making a pretty solid veggie fried rice,and that I am able to make meals quickly helped as well. There are obviously manuals and recipes when it comes to learning how to cook, but the most important item may be figuring out how you cook. 

I write this article to emphasize to those that are dealing with cooking off campus, whether it be the first, second, or third time, that cooking is fun. It should be low stress and a way to decompress from your day. It’s really easy to get dragged down into the dregs of cooking. But don’t let your anger or frustration boil over. Not every meal is going to be perfect, and it sucks when the food you were excited to make just does not hit the spot. Although I do believe that food you prepare yourself automatically tastes 10x better, I’d recommend to just roll with the punches until you find your bread and butter in the kitchen. Don’t fall into bad habits and view cooking as something you must do but as something you get to do.