Tom Braslavsky: Julie, Julia and Tom

It was my first time cooking in college. Last weekend, I attempted to make scrambled eggs – and set off the smoke detector. As I was rushing to turn it off, I splashed some hot oil on myself (a few burn spots are still visible on my hand). You could call my first time a fail.

So I’m not the most experienced cook, but I am willing to learn. This year, with my own kitchen and less mandatory spending, I think I’m in a good position to start practicing. There are many benefits to cooking for yourself – and maybe for others as well.

Let me get the important point out of the way: it saves money. We all know how expensive J Street and other on-campus options can get; it’s often at least $10 per meal with a drink. Compare this to a grocery store, where for the price of just a few of these meals, one can get bags and bags of groceries that will last for a week or more. Storing food in your refrigerator and preparing it as needed thus adds up to tremendous savings.

Another benefit of cooking in your dorm is the health factor. There are some healthy options on campus (like some vastly overpriced fruit). But – and this doesn’t necessarily depend on how health-conscious you are – wouldn’t you like to know all the secret ingredients that go into your General Tso’s chicken or a delicious stuffed burrito? Buying and then preparing your own food ensures that you know exactly what you’re eating and can make things that are healthy.

Maybe at some point you’ve gotten bored of eating out and started craving that home-cooked meal. Well, why not try to make it? Get a recipe from a friend or family member and try it out. This may even help solve problems with homesickness. Of course, it’s not like I can make any of my mother’s food, but maybe with some practice, who knows?

Recently, cooking seems to be getting a sort of resurgence in pop culture. Just look at all the reality shows centered on it: Iron Chef, Top Chef, Hell’s Kitchen, the list goes on. Not only that, but being a good cook also makes you more popular with others. Learn how to cook and all your friends will suddenly like you better. You’ll have company over all the time. And guys, let’s face it, cooking is sexy – if pasta and three-buck-chuck wine doesn’t mean college romance, I don’t know what does.

Now, I know that some of us don’t have much time, and others are just lazy. Some of us are just not interested in learning anything about the culinary arts. But why not gain some experience now? Preparing food is a life skill – you know you’re going to have to do it at one time or another. Moreover, there are simple things that you can cook – I’m certainly starting small. If you set your mind to it, you’ll find the minimal necessary time.

My second attempt at cooking in my dorm actually ended in success. After clearing away all the smoke and running cold water over my burnt hand, I tried again and cooked myself a delicious breakfast. In college, we can learn more than just book smarts and increased social skills – we can also leave knowing how to make food, a skill which many of us may have to start utilizing as grads without too many job prospects. It’s really all a part of growing up and gaining independence, something which college is meant to help us with.

So sophomores, upperclassmen – anyone with a kitchen and no exorbitant amount of mandatory J Street spending – take an extra few minutes and cook yourself or your friends a meal. It’s worth it. Just watch out for those smoke detectors; in my humble opinion they are a bit too sensitive.

The writer, a sophomore majoring in international affairs, is a Hatchet columnist.

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