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Expectation meats reality: the truth about cooking in college

We live in a day and age where students pass time in class on their computers watching Buzzfeed videos on easy meal recipes to make at home. Food Network show binges fuel dreams of cooking up something delicious with ease.

And if your parents are anything like mine, you've had to put up with how often they watch cooking shows at home.

Basically, I grew up ready to be a skilled, intuitive chef and cook fantastic meals for myself. I was ready for a gourmet life. It seemed like the peak of human enjoyment: if you can manage to eat a restaurant-quality meal at home a couple times per week, you're really doing something well.

After years of watching my dad slowly become more fascinated with the world of cooking and enduring countless hours of cooking shows on public television, I was ready to start my own path to becoming a Chopped winner.

Flash forward to the fall of 2016, two years ago, when I moved into Thomson Hall as a freshman.

Dorm living did provide a solid amount of personal autonomy. However, my own personal anxieties about disrupting conversation in a common area or encountering too many people I didn't know prevented me from using the kitchenette on our floor very often to cook something for myself.

So I really was excited to live off campus my junior year. It would mean endless possibilities for some wholesome, innovative cooking, and I'd be able to truly live the life I'd wanted to while still trapped in a dorm.

Now that I'm exclusively living with people I know and like, and we've got a full kitchen, the cooking possibilities are endless. They should be endless, right?

Surprise. That's not exactly the case.

When I was shopping and packing to move in this semester, I made a list of all of the kitchen utensils I wanted to have, under some bizarre impression that by the end of the year, I'd have cooked so much that becoming a chef after college wouldn't be the worst backup plan.

My dad even signed me up for one of his favorite cooking magazines this summer, under our mutual impression that I would now be able to make all types of dishes to my heart's content.

Nonetheless, yesterday morning, my breakfast was leftover, one-third-dried plain fettuccine that I had made before I went to sleep and forgot to eat, fed to me by my bare hands.

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And today, one of my roommates made three grilled cheeses for breakfast, lunch and dinner, at the same time.

Not exactly the ideal smoothie-and-avocado toast breakfast I'd envisioned as a freshman.

Not quite gourmet.

Bottom line: a lifestyle of intricate cooking is really not designed for the average college student. When you're taking four or more classes, balancing commitments between student organizations and social obligations and, quite frankly, just trying to get enough sleep, cooking is not always a top priority.

I'm still a stressed college student who's pressed for time. The only thing that's changed from my freshman year is the setting in which I live.

Sorry to break it to you, dad. I'll get around to that cooking magazine sometime, but for now, it's likely that my average meal will be nine frozen chicken nuggets I heat up in the oven.

And honestly? That's okay.

I just tell myself to think about all of the kitchen fires I'm avoiding by exclusively making foods that have step-by-step cooking instructions on the back of the box.

Weekly meal prep means I have to think far in advance, and that's something I've never been great at.

Ingredients can also be expensive. Some of the most appetizing recipes take too long, and create more dirty dishes to take care of afterward.

A top-tier culinary lifestyle doesn't suit me. It might be possible one day, but it's not today, and it's really not looking like tomorrow will be that day, either.

Maybe you're not like me, and you're genuinely proactive and on top of your extremely healthy diet. In fact, if you're not like me in that regard, I genuinely salute you.

And the best part? Since I'm not spending a ton of time cooking these extravagant recipes, I have more time to watch cooking videos. It's a win-win.

gormanwm@miamioh.edu

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