Dorm life can be enhanced by fun, creative cooking

Vanessa Marcano

Vanessa Marcano

The words “meal plan” probably sounded exciting when you first read them on the brochure or Web site about student life at SDSU.

Anything from salads, pizza, Asian-style meals, burritos, among so many other options, could delight your tastebuds every day without any effort other than sliding your student ID card by the cashier.

But what happens when it’s the second week of class, you’re standing in line for yet another Union Market pizza or Larson Commons pasta and your mouth simply refuses to take another taste of the same food of the last 15 days? Or when you’ve returned from a late-night “study” session and your stomach is just begging you to return to home’s savory cooking?

Contrary to popular belief, making a tasty, healthy and quick meal is possible in the dorms. It just may take a little creativity and thinking outside of the box, but that’s what you came to do here in the first place, right? For those who are willing or able to take on this mission, here is a quick and easy guide to achieve the impossible: cooking a meal in college.

What resources do you have?

One of the biggest limitations to dorm-room cooking is the type of appliances allowed inside the rooms. Many students agree that some of the essential appliances include a mini fridge, a microwave and a toaster. Other allowed and useful appliances include hot pots, coffee makers and blenders.

“Whatever appliances you do buy, make sure they are compact,” said Justin Geraets, a junior political science, Spanish and global studies major.

Residence halls have a communal kitchen area available to students.

“Even if your hall’s kitchen doesn’t look that inviting, take advantage of it, because it’s better than [cooking] Pizza Rolls or Hot Pockets,” said sophomore Sean Begley, a political science and global studies major.

Whenever she felt hungry and the commons were not open, Nicole Nemmers, a junior human development and family studies major, said she would occasionally go to the Newman Center.

“They have this huge cafeteria-style kitchen in the basement. You can go almost any time and as long as you clean up after yourself, you can use it,” she said.

Sometimes people would even gather at this kitchen to bake snacks to leave in the common areas, especially during finals week, said Nemmers.

“Many of the different campus religious centers have open basement kitchens,” said Geraets.

For those out there who enjoy hunting, fishing and savoring the taste of wild game in their recipes, there are two “game” (or gut) rooms available to students: one in Mathews Hall and the other one in Hansen.

“We have a lot of hunters here,” said Kim Havard, a facility worker at Hansen Hall.

“Most of the time they bring ducks, but one time we had someone bring a deer. They brought it down in black bags, cleaned it and then cooked it right here in the hall’s kitchen,” she said.

The game room is available even if the student is not a resident of the hall; it just has to be checked out through the office, said Shawn Mohr, a senior agronomy major and office assistant at Hansen.

Before you start…

? For a truly unique taste, check out the boxes of vacuum-sealed Indian dishes at the international foods section of HyVee. These simply need to be heated in a pot with hot water. You can heat up water in a coffeemaker or in the microwave.

? Be sure to swing by the deli section of the grocery store, where you will be able to find sliced turkey, chicken, roast beef, salami and assorted cheeses to spice up dorm-made pizzas, sandwiches or wraps. Buying by weight is less expensive and avoids some of the harmful preservatives and excess sodium found in pre-packaged deli meats.

? Whenever weather allows, take advantage of grilling out if your residence hall has such facilities.

? “Also, don’t buy too much stuff that expires really fast. … A lot of my food went bad because I did not use it quickly enough,” said Nemmers.

Cook and get ready to mingle

Cooking in the dorms can be a socially rewarding experience, since it can put you in touch with even more people when you are looking for new recipes, a missing ingredient or an available space to cook.

“If you don’t have a kitchen free for use, just go to a friend’s place where you can,” said Begley.

A good source could be friends who live off campus or those that live in Berg and Bailey halls, which is complete with a kitchen and sink in each unit.

Dorm students could also agree on a periodic communal supper during which everyone pitches in to cook, buy ingredients and prepare a meal at their hall’s kitchen. That’s always an opportunity to meet other residents or just give a break to your taste buds.

So, now you’re pumped to embark upon a culinary adventure either in the privacy of your room or at the hall’s kitchens – but what should you eat? Below are a few easy, dorm-friendly suggestions that are sure to make your stomach happy.

#1.881402:4291180612.jpg:DSCF3006.1.jpg:Matthew Smith, a senior nursing major, demonstrates how to cook wild rice soup on a stove in Caldwell Hall’s kitchen. The kitchen is readily available to any student who wishes to use it.:ByJiaJun Yang