A Call to Cook in College
The following is an editorial originally posted in the Tufts Daily by Tufts Culinary President Manuel Guzman.
I cannot count the number of times students have come up to me asking me where they can cook. It is true that some dorms have better kitchens than others; South and Metcalf seem to be the favorites among student chefs while the kitchen in Lewis is at the bottom of the cuisine food chain. Seniors living off-campus do not have to ask their friends to fob them into other dorms’ kitchens, but freshmen and sophomores are often deterred from developing their cooking skills due to mediocre facilities.
I strongly believe that learning how to cook is as important as learning how to swim. Many colleges like Columbia, Williams, and MIT have integrated mandatory swimming classes and tests before graduation into their curriculum. Although I would not advocate for a mandatory cooking test before graduation, Tufts should send a message to Jumbos everywhere that cooking is a necessary life skill by renovating kitchens across campus to be more conducive to cooking.
A few weeks ago I cooked dinner for a few of my close friends and I realized that out of the six people around the table, only two people knew how to cook. I paused for a second. Why does Tufts not offer a Cooking 101 class? Culinary Schools exist but we cannot expect everyone to be able to attend. They are often very formal and such lessons would be complete overkill for the student who just wants to learn how to prepare and cook a simple chicken. The basics of cooking are very important and should be taught in college.
Becoming the Next Iron Chef is a feat that is simply out of reach for most college students, but being able to cook for oneself or even one’s friends is a completely achievable goal. Why not impress your girlfriend or boyfriend with a dorm-cooked meal instead of going out to dinner? The effort is what counts, even if the meal is not the best. Some people may argue that my views on cooking are out of touch with those of most college students, but in the midst of this recession I think that going back to the basics should be a priority.
Last year I co-founded the Tufts Culinary Society with my close friend, Alix Boulud, in order to advance food knowledge and impart cooking skills to students. As a new club we got off to a slow start but we had a vision and a desire to change mentalities around food and cooking. This year our membership increased dramatically and left us completely unprepared. I can confidently say that a sizeable amount of the student body is interested in this subject but most are hesitant to go in their kitchens and cook themselves a meal.
Why are students so hesitant to cook? Maybe their parents do not cook, they do not have access to a kitchen, or they tried in their childhood and almost started a fire. Maybe they do not have time, or simply do not like being in the kitchen. These are reasons for them to rationalize the fact that they either cannot or do not want to cook. Making excuses in this day and age about not knowing how to cook is not an option. Anyone can cook but it is something you have to work at.
If you do not learn how to cook, what will you do when you leave Tufts? If you keep the habits of your college days—dining halls and Pizza Days —you will be stuck eating prepackaged meals and ordering delivery for the rest of your life. Not only is that expensive, but it will get really boring really fast. So put on your chef’s hat and get into the kitchen! (Or if your kitchen is really gross, go to a friend’s dorm). Making mistakes is part of the learning process; do not get discouraged because your cake or omelet turns out weird. That’s part of cooking! Things can get really ugly in the beginning but with practice, in no time you will have become the most popular person on your floor. Bon appétit!