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‘Joy of Cooking’ by Irma Rom­bauer. Col­legian | Julia Mullins

Art is not my strong suit. When I hear people talk about color theory and per­spective, it’s as if they’re speaking Greek. But artistic expression isn’t limited to music, painting, or sculpting, and the most enjoyable form of artistic expression is often overlooked.

Cooking has been the cen­ter­piece of any family gath­ering throughout my life. Some of my fondest mem­ories are of my extended family getting together for a bar­becue or a crab boil. My parents, for as long as I can remember, have included my brother and me in their cooking, be it a small family dinner or a Thanks­giving meal. 

Only in the last few years, however, have I begun to appre­ciate the craft that goes into cooking. It is fun­da­men­tally dif­ferent from baking, which relies on exact mea­sure­ments and has often been described as a science. Cooking encourages far more spon­taneity, and allows a cook to exper­iment and cus­tomize recipes as they wish. There are endless alter­ations of estab­lished recipes, and chefs con­sis­tently push the bound­aries of what diners expect from a restaurant.

Cooking in college, however, can be dif­ficult. The kitchens in dor­mi­tories, fra­ter­nities, and off-campus houses can get crowded and messy. My house­mates have com­plained about smoke alarms going off as I sear a steak or cook a chicken breast. But for me, it’s worth it. There is no Bon Appetit after college — you have to learn how to cook for yourself. 

Your first meal doesn’t have to be a beef Wellington or some other decadent dish. Starting small and learning the basics opens up a realm of pos­si­bil­ities. Learn to cut veg­etables and make a basic sauce, learn to properly cook dif­ferent meats, and perhaps most impor­tantly, learn where your food comes from. Buying veg­etables from a farmer’s market or cuts of meat from a local farmer creates a more authentic dish and ensures that the food is free of pes­ti­cides or arti­ficial hormones. 

There’s a deeper reason to cook: Cooking for friends or house­mates gives you time to bond over a home-cooked meal. Plus, it’s a great way to impress a date — my girl­friend still claims my cooking is the only reason we started dating, nearly two years after I pre­pared a chicken picatta in the Simpson Res­i­dence lobby.