The path of yeast resistance: How to survive University with minimal culinary talent

Not all of us are talented home cooks, especially when it comes to cooking on a budget, with no time during university. Making cooking, every student's nightmare.

Megan E Hill
8th November 2021
Image: Pxfuel
When I first left for university, my mum gave me a recipe book that she has put together, filled with my favourite meals. As a preface to this tale of perseverance, drive and human grit, the book actually included a recipe for scrambled eggs, which should give you a rough idea as to the level of culinary talent that I was working with. Whilst I am a huge foodie, my love for a steaming roast, melt-in-the-mouth pulled pork bun or crispy roast potato begins at its placement onto my plate. Its journey of creation, I’m afraid, is of absolutely zero interest to me. Prior to embarking on my culinary journey at university, tokens of my adventures into the kitchen would be left in the form of google searches on the family iPad such as “how long does broccoli take to cook,” “Can you die if you reheat rice” and “Uber eats vouchers.” In short: I am Nigella’s worst nightmare. Thus, when I was left cold and nutritionally vulnerable in a university kitchen, I found myself feeling incredibly panicked. Having parents that are both hugely into cooking (which my Dad likes to regularly remind us by leaving a cook book poignantly on the kitchen table, a few days prior to his debut in the kitchen and then ceremoniously donning an apron at around 10am in preparation for an 8pm dinner) I have always been lucky enough to have delicious meals growing up. So, when I found myself unable to whine “MUUUUUUM what’s for SUUUUPPER” down the stairs, I clung onto my Mum’s home-made recipe book for dear life.

Year 1

Unsurprisingly, for most students, this is where a dangerous obsession with just two meals comes into play.

  • Monster munch. These bad lads comprised most of my meals, I am on reflection, slightly ashamed to admit. Such variation of flavours so easily leads the naïve student down the thought path that you are in fact consuming a diverse range of nutrients, and thus one variety pack was essentially a week of meals. Add a Kinder Bueno or an apple (if you are on the brink of scurvy, otherwise just a Kinder Bueno will do) for a real screamer of a two course meal.

In short: I am Nigella’s worst nightmare

  • This next meal is the mecca for students. The Italian dream conjured up right in your very own dirty kitchen. Pasta à la Pesto. The first time I whipped this up away from home it tasted like what I can only assume liquid gold marinated in sunshine and drip fed to you with God’s own hand. It was – and still actually is – the very sweetest and trustiest of reliable dishes. It just never fails. Add a dash of double cream to send your pesto pasta into the stratosphere. My Mum has actually banned me from eating this delicacy at home due to “overconsumption,” but why shy away from perfection is what I say.

Year 2

This is the year that, being in possession of an actual kitchen as opposed to a prison issued model fitted in your first-year halls, your culinary game really takes a step up.

The year of chicken. This section is not one for the vegetarian hearted. Being a huge meat lover, chicken has always fallen short for me when placed next to the mighty beef. Steak, burger, spaghetti Bolognese, the pièce de résistance of a roast dinner – beef is the unbeatable king of the meat world. That is until I found myself faced with the financially flirtatious chicken. So cheap! So quick to cook! Chicken has really enabled me to segue from the realm of “unable to cook” to the land of “severely below average but competent” and for that I will always be grateful. Paired with a baked sweet potato (cannot believe these words are flowing so easily from me onto the keyboard) and some broccoli (5 minutes) for a family group chat worthy photo submission.

Year 3

I have found it quite challenging to really climb any higher than the peak of supreme Chefdom on which I now sit, but alas, one must try. This year I am hoping to master the beef stroganoff. I know what you are thinking – don’t run before you can walk – but this is the one feature in my Mum’s cookbook that I am yet to have a stab at and Daddy most certainly did not raise a quitter. I am feeling rather hopeful for this new adventure as I now have a respectful repertoire of sausages (beans and mash), Spag bol and then smoked salmon (cream and a lemon juice) pasta under my belt.

What I never realised before is that cooking with your housemates is actually a great way to get to know everyone better...

In short, whilst University is a learning curve with regards to so many things, the challenge of cooking is a huge one for many students. If, like my housemate from last year Beth, you relish in (and are extremely talented at) cooking and baking – then this article will not only be amusing to you as you enjoy your poke bowl and fresh banana bread (Beth), but you can also read this with the knowledge that you are probably God’s favourite. For the rest of us bumbling on through the culinary experience that Uni so uncomfortably thrusts upon us – my advice for you is that it will get better. What I never realised before is that cooking with your housemates is actually a great way to get to know everyone better, it alleviates the boredom of solo cooking and you can also pinch ideas and tips for your next meal in the process. The act of a food shop went from self-inflicted torture to the highlight of my week (particularly in lockdown) as my friends and I would all pile into a car laden with reusable bags, one pound trolley coins and the energy to roast whoever was on aux. Whilst I am by no means an accomplished cook, I think my parents now no longer have to worry that I will wither away next to an empty packet of monster munch – and that is indeed progress.

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