June 14, 2013: College Dorm Cooking

I stayed on campus during summer interim to help with Commencement & Reunion. Basically, I would work long hours making beds for senior’s families during commencement and alums during reunions. Running from the linen closest, which was usually in the basement of one of the buildings in the residential cluster, we had to make sure that the right amount of blankets, sheets, towels, cups, etc. were in each room. The worst would be when you’re at the top floor in the building furthest from the linen closet and you yell that there are no blankets, which are the heaviest. Most buildings didn’t have air conditioning and elevators. Use the Man (and Womyn) Power! Then, we would sit at desks to give information and guard keys. There were times I sat from 8 am – 1:30 am. Yes, 1:30 AM.

While on campus, I had the stereotypical college diet while I didn’t when college was in session. Ate ramen most of the time since we were only provided $100 for 10 days, so basically 1 meal a day. I used the leftover money on my meal plan to by snacks and ramen to sustain myself for the other 20 meals. The only dining hall open was the one that cooked all the greasy oily food so I ate a lot of burgers just because I like them.

I did cook once when I had a box of Macaroni and Cheese that I nabbed because students who were leaving would leave food they didn’t want in the kitchen. I also cooked a lot of instant oatmeal, mixed with hot chocolate mix, but I don’t think that counts as cooking. This box required milk and butter, both of which I didn’t since I didn’t have a fridge. I knew the dining hall sold milk but I wasn’t sure about butter. What student would need butter when all the food is cooked for them? Luckily, people need butter on bread and there were packets of butter in the condiment section. I took a lot. Hey, it’s free!

I also stopped by the salad bar and bought some broccoli and red bell peppers for a friend, who was cooking pasta. I took some cold grilled chicken and onions, which I planned to sauté until caramelized.

I had to cook in a different dorm because there were pans and pots in mine. Here’s how I cooked it…. from what I remembered:

1. Fill pot with water and let it boil. I placed a paper plate over it since there was no cover to help it boil faster. I vaguely remember from high school chemistry that boiling was due to air pressure. The atmospheric air pressure is greater. The paper plate might block it and make it easier for the air in the water to evaporate out to create the bubbles? Don’t quote me on this. I haven’t touched science, other than computer science, since I graduated high school. Ironically, my high school had hte word “science” in its name.

2. After the water has boiled, pour in the uncooked pasta. Remember to remove the packet of cheese!

3. Check that the pasta has cooked to the desired tenderness. Pour into strainer to empty the water.

4. Caramelize the onions by stirring them around in the hot pot. I only had 1 pot and had to wait until everything was done before moving on. If you have more than 1 pot and/or pan, you can prepare the other ingredients while the pasta is cooking. This was my first time trying to caramelize onions but I didn’t have many onions so bits started to burn.

5. Empty pot of onions onto a plate. Add the chicken to warm it up. Then place onto a plate.

6. Mix butter, milk, and cheese powder to create cheese sauce.

7. Add pasta and mix.

8. Add other ingredients and mix.

9. Enjoy.

College Macaroni & Cheese

College Macaroni & Cheese: Macaroni and Cheese with red bell peppers, broccoli, caramelized onions, and grilled chicken

It was ok. I liked that it was hot, of course. I also ended up microwaving it again to maintain that same temperature intensity. It was an ok dinner. I had more fun cooking it than eating it. The sauce was ok. I didn’t have measuring tools to make sure the amount of milk and butter I added was accurate. I’m writing this post a few weeks afterwards so obviously, I didn’t die from food poisoning myself. I’m glad that I was able to use the food in the dining hall and to also get some vegetables and protein in. Hm… looking forward to being more creative with food in the dining halls when I return in the winter. In the fall, I will be in China!

Yay! WordPress isn’t blocked in China but it was until October 2012. Hopefully that isn’t reinstated when I go. I would love to blog about food I eat in China and maybe food that I cook, possibly with other students or my grandparents!

Anyways… back to college cooking:

I will write a post later about when I volunteered on Saturdays at an adult shelter to cook dinner. I still have the pictures! More details later…

In the largest dining hall which was buffet style, there was a panini grill during lunch and stir-fry station during dinner. At lunch, you can heat up the pre-made paninis or quesadillas. My favorite panini was one that had sliced sausage/pepperoni with figs or some fruit. It was a great sweet and salty combination, which I love. My mom either said that it’s easy to get fat from eating food like that or smart people like to eat that. She told me this when I was younger so most likely it was a lie.

Another option was to make your own sandwich. I would cut bread from the loaves offered and fill it up with roast beef, or whatever meat I felt like eating, along with lettuce, tomato, banana peppers, pickles, and goat cheese, which I found to be extremely delicious. Unfortunately, they didn’t always have it.

The stir-fry station was hilarious to be at during the beginning of the year. Being a freshman, I’m not sure if it was entirely new to the student body or just something for the freshman to play around with. Either way, I could tell which students knew how to cook and which didn’t. The stir-fry station was probably the closest students had to cooking in college since there was so much food provided on the meal plan and on campus through events that it didn’t make sense to buy groceries. You’d actually lose money. I would see students dump in the meat first and then add oil. The meat would they just stick to the pan and create an ugly mess.

My mom told me to first wait for the pan to heat up. Then add the oil and wait for it to heat up so it’s easier to spread it around the pan. You can check the temperature by hovering your hand over the pan. I’m still working on this technique but at least I was taught to add oil first!

Afterwards, instructions were taped in the stir-fry station along with a chef coming in to give exclusive stir-fry tips and lessons. Insane. Somehow, college should incorporate cooking or at least encourage it. Even students who live off-campus have to purchase a meal plan with a lot of money, which totally defeats the purpose of them living independently. They should be cooking for themselves, not eating on campus as often as they are because of all the money they would lose if they didn’t.

I also cooked in my dorm room. Aside from the abandon water heater I nabbed in the kitchen for my ramen and oatmeal, I would take the free saltine crackers and lay them under my lamp during the beginning of the school year. I would break pieces of my string cheese and lay it on the cracker with a raisin on top. My lamp was super hot that the cheese would start to soften a bit and the raisin would heat up since it was dark. Unfortunately, I had to leave the lamp behind when returning since I couldn’t fit it with everything I was carrying back. In hindsight, I should have left some things in storage… I don’t like to be apart from my things but then at home, it’s just all over the floor in a mess. Am I a packrat? Hopefully not…

So that was the extent of my cooking. Hopefully, my future post on volunteering to cook dinner will impress you more with my culinary skills.

(Insert catchy end-ph—

Ugh. I’m tired. I wrote  5 posts in one night from 3 am to 8 am. Give me a break. Peace.


Above featured picture was taken as I was looking up one of the dorm building we were cleaning, Wheeler.

Update: Chef Grace Young came to visit Dartmouth to teach how to cook stir-fry. I incorrect stated that she was a Dartmouth alum. I had assumed that. I realized that she had come to Dartmouth when I saw a CHOW video of her hosting “You’re Doing It All Wrong: How to Stir-Fry,” how fitting.


One thought on “June 14, 2013: College Dorm Cooking

  1. Pingback: Restaurant Fears / July 3, 2013: Food Review | Hunger Is the Best Chef

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