Freshmen, consider learning to cook

Andrew Costello, a senior double-majoring in political science and economics, is a Hatchet opinions writer.

Most students don’t come to college to learn how to cook.

I came here to study political science and economics. But surprisingly, one of the most useful things I learned as a freshman had nothing to do with either of those subjects. Instead, I learned about the importance of self-reliance, especially when it comes to food and nutrition.

I learned to cook during my first year on campus — a skill that has continued to benefit me throughout my college career. If you’re a freshman this year, consider that learning to cook will continue to benefit you throughout your time at school — even if it takes a bit of extra effort.

As a freshman at GW, I wasn’t presented with many options for healthy, affordable meals. Three years ago, J Street’s fast-casual offerings included an Indian restaurant, Chinese cuisine, a sandwich shop and a Sodexo-operated diner of questionable quality. And those offerings haven’t changed much since then.

The healthiest options available came from the buffet, but the pay-by-weight system always seemed a little too expensive to me. An average meal at J Street usually cost me about $10, and I quickly found it to be an entirely unsustainable method of keeping myself fed.

So I began to cook on my own. Of course, I had to figure out the logistics of making my own food as a first-year student with no cooking utensils, proprietary kitchen, or much storage space. Needless to say, I definitely had to make some compromises when I set out on this particular adventure — but it can be done.

And yes, freshmen are required to spend a certain amount of money in GW’s dining halls, which limits how much of your own food you can make. But if you spend your Colonial Cash smartly, you’re free to spend as much of your campus dining dollars on coffee and candy bars as you want — without worrying about wasting it.

When I started, I did have to shell out some cash for a skillet, a saucepan and a large stirring spoon at CVS. Later on, I would grab a mixing bowl, a cutting board and a few utensils. At the bare minimum, this was about everything I needed in order to cook vegetables, meat and pasta. Picking up some basic supplies isn’t too difficult or costly, and can also help to set you up for the next few years.

Next, I had to figure out where to cook. Thankfully, most freshman dorms — though unfortunately not all — have a communal kitchen for their residents to use, so that was a no-brainer. Of course, they normally aren’t kept very clean, but a few disinfectant wipes can solve that problem.

After that, it’s helpful to have a few recipes up your sleeve that are quick, easy and cheap to make. Most of the meals I cook draw heavily from my Italian heritage, and usually involve pasta, oil, garlic and whatever else I feel like eating. But finding staple nutritious foods — ones that you can use for different meals — is invaluable.

So consider cooking a few nights a week instead of going out. It’s a vital skill to learn while you have the time and energy to give it a try.

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