The food in my dorm. College life is kind of like living at home, but the food's worse. Survival tactics ensue! I'm in my college dorm right now, and this is the list of foods I've lived on here.
Often the number one complaint of any college student.

Leads to arguments where each participant tries to prove that in fact, their college has the worst food. It's almost a badge of honor, or something.
"My dorm food is truly horrible! Bow before me!".

It's hard to tell why the food is so bad; for example, I have evidence that the staff at my school (Caltech) can make good food if needed: once a term, each student house gets a nice dinner, and the food is actually good then.

Other times, however, it ranges from ok to "I'm supposed to ingest that?". Also, the head chef of our dining services is actually an actual chef, and thus on occasion tries to do things that are beyond the skills of the staff... those are usually the worst things that we come across. (Flaming marshmallow cream, anyone?)
My dorm food was surprisingly good.

Breakfast comprised of a selection of cereals and/or toast and/or hot foods (fried egg, scrambled egg, fried tomatoes, mushrooms, baked beans, sausage and bacon) + tea/coffee/OJ.

Lunch comprised of cold salads, baked potatos with fillings and/or soup - or we could take a food token to any cafeteria/bar on campus and purchase food/drinks/alcohol with the balance. Evening meals included a vegetarian choice, a selection of hot and cold salads, 3 choices of main meals (usually 2 meat, 1 fish), soup, fruit and a dessert (usually custard based, delicious and full of calories) and fresh bread.

As filling and satisfying as the food was at my illustrious alma mater (Exeter University, Devon, England) I suffered the indignity of adding 14 pounds to my weight in the year I spent in the dorm.

Luckily the next two years living in a student house on a budget hindered by an increased consumption of alcohol and narcotics allowed me to not only shift the excess 14 pounds, but also an additional 1/2 stone.

Don't worry, soon after leaving, I quickly put it all back on and more due to the delights of my office job and sedentary lifestlye.

"Dorm Food" is a lame excuse for laziness and ignorance among clueless college students who have tragically failed to develop any sort of culinary skills in all the years that mommy cooked for them. In my first year of college, I was astonished to find that not only did most of the fools on my floor not know what was in lentil soup, but they also didn't know which cut of meat was which, or how to make pancakes without a mix, or what cornmeal is good for. Unbelievable!

Even my own dear sweetheart participated in all the jokes about "dorm food" and "free food" with a sort of triumphant remorse, as if forcing oneself to subsist on chips, TV dinners, frozen taquitos, and yogurt was some kind of rite of passage, a part of the "college experience". I can barely keep a straight face about this. TV dinners? I'd sooner eat plain rice. At least that's good for you (and lots cheaper, and can be eaten with chopsticks).

Seriously, folks, just because you don't have your own kitchen doesn't mean you can't eat well. And by well, I mean good, hot meals with a minumum of artifical colors, artificial flavors, and BHT to preserve freshness. I mean, if you like TV dinners, eat up, but with a little more work, you can do a lot better, even in your crappy dorm room.

The following items are very helpful to have. Not all of them are usually allowed by the authorities in dorms, but this never bothered us. = )

My roommate and I had the sense to go in on a bread machine, which was probably one of the best decisions I made that entire year. Our room almost got mobbed a couple of times when the day's loaf was done baking (we bought a 25 lb. bag of flour at CostCo, and ...)

With an electric skillet, you can do almost anything. Scrambled eggs, unscrambled eggs, omelettes, mock stir fry, tacos, pork chops, bacon, pancakes, gravy, and the list goes on and on. The best thing we made in it was fried catfish, which was delicious. You can sometimes get catfish for only $2.99 a pound. Fill the skillet with vegetable oil, rub the fillets with cornmeal and seasonings (I use "Tony Chachere's Cajun Seasoning"), and fry it up. When using the skillet, put it near the window and point your fan at it. Don't burn anything. A large number of good recipes for catfish can be found at www.catfishinstitute.org, in case you didn't know.

A crock pot is more useful than you think. Without ordering any weird gadgets or attachments, you can make any soup in the world, plus things like pot roast, goulash, spaghetti, and stuffed peppers. We made a zesty jambalaya once, and it was really good. Chop a pound of chicken breasts, a green pepper, a red pepper, celery, green onions, an onion, garlic, and add seasonings, half a pound of shrimp, some cooked rice, about 1/3 C tomato paste, some tomato sauce, and some actual tomatoes, turn it to high, dinner is in 6 hours. Seriously, all that chopping only takes about half an hour, well worth it for a tasty meal. Leave your door open while you're doing it, and passing females will be amazed at your culinary prowess. Invite them to dinner.

Pot roast was incredibly simple. Buy the desired amount of beef (rump works well, so does the cut they sell as "pot roast", just make sure it'll fit in the pot), rub with seasonings, dice some potatoes and carrots (plus an onion and some peppers if desired), turn to high, dinner is in 6 hours. I couldn't believe how easy that was, either. All this may sound like an infomercial for crock pots, but seriously, this is good eating for very little work.

What are the buckets for? Well, pancake mix dries out and flakes right off if you leave the residue in the bucket long enough. That way, you don't have to actually wash it. The second bucket is for use while the other bucket is still drying. = )

Tips on having dinner parties in your dorm room (you'll want to invite your friends over to eat with you, as most of these recipes easily feed 4 people):

  • Set up a card table
  • Have folding chairs, or make your friends steal them from the lounge
  • Make rice. Almost anything can be put on top of or served with rice to stretch it out. This is handy when the 7th person wants in.
  • Tortillas and bread (from the old lady in front of the bookstore and the bread machine, respectively) are also good side fill-up items. Warm the tortillas in the microwave before serving.
  • Make your rice with chicken broth instead of water for more flavor.
  • Having a cheese grater and providing a good hunk of cheddar (or better yet, queso fresca) for the tacos will impress your friends severely.
  • Speaking of tacos, you can simply have "soft tacos" (with corn tortillas! Flour tortilla "tacos" are a major faux pas), or your can make your taco shells (this takes a little skill). Put a bunch of oil in the skillet, heat it up, use tongs to put a corn tortilla in, take it out and flip it about 10 seconds later, fold in half gently (with the tongs!) 10 more seconds later. Dry on paper towels. Buy the extra-thin corn tortillas for best results.
  • After the meal is over, clear off the dishes and set up the RISK board.
I don't see why anyone should complain, given these options. I guess it boils down to whether or not you can spare an extra half hour (I always made my roommate do this dishes if I cooked) for food preparation. We didn't even have a sink in our room, and we managed to make decent food several times a week (until midterms rolled around, and then we mostly ate crap. I have kind of a thing for cold Velveeta straight out of the package, but... Of course, we could have done better if I'd had a parking permit. It's hard to go shopping as often as necessary when you have to walk a mile to get to the truck). Good luck. The cookbook that comes with the Crock Pot is pretty good, by the way. Ask your mom for some recipes, too. = )

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