"Dorm Food" is a lame excuse
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 fool
s 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 pancake
s 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. = )
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 mob
bed a couple of times when the day's loaf
was done baking (we bought a 25 lb. bag of flour
, 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 boil
s 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 midterm
s 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. = )