Cooking. It’s the one feature of uni life that students perhaps fear the most as they embark on their first tentative steps to semi-independence. A life skill that, if you were lucky enough, you never had to do yourself as a child. Personally, I find cooking quite enjoyable from time to time. However, this is mainly due to the fact that I am able to make use of the well stocked fridges and cupboards of home. Yet when Uni comes around, those premium ingredients that I took for granted for so many years were cruelly taken away from me in one foul swoop.
When you brave your first halls kitchen, the cooking game is a completely different kettle of fish. One hopes that if everyone pooled all their cooking knowledge together that you would be able to share the bountiful culinary delights that your combined teamwork would hopefully produce. While I am sure this may happen in rare cases, the reality, is that student cooks often have to fend for themselves. Constantly wary of each other, the game turns into more a game of espionage than Ready Steady Cook. you will very soon realise that student cooking intelligence agencies do exist, and that they will use any means necessary to increase their own cooking prowess at the expense of your own. This can be achieved through various means, the most popular is the poaching of your very own ingredients. This not only undermines your own natural resources but, moreover, causes a rift between you and a flat mate, who is rapidly emerging as Public enemy no. 1.
The severity of the situation is only fully realised when your meal of today becomes their meal of tomorrow. One can only assume that whilst you share a friendly conversation by the hob, that this is merely a distraction whilst the blue print of your steak with peppercorn sauce is being duly noted down and undoubtedly stored in the theoretical book of stolen student recipes that has now manifested itself in your head.
This really shouldn’t bother you as much as it does. After all, your adversary has every right to attempt your staple dishes, the ones you undoubtedly planned with your parents to make sure that you didn’t return home at Christmas resembling a deflated balloon that requires re-inflation. However it is the manner with which they have so obviously thieved your expertise that hurts the most. Without this vital know how, they would be forced into an existence of papa johns (budget permitting), instead of sponging off your well earned survival skills. You may not be Bear Grylls, but a student learns to adapt and survive on the scarcest of resources. Making those multiple cans of long life soup that fester in your cupboard last a year is an achievement in itself. However, it is clear that with your new nemesis clawing for parity on the cooking front, you will have to step up a gear and what ensues is the beginnings of an arms race centered around food and one that will encompass cuisines from far and wide as well as combinations you didn’t think could exist. All in an attempt to gain that vital edge and maintain your superiority as top dog.
It is a relief when the ordeal is over, for this ongoing conflict only usually lasts the first year before dissipating. When you have a house with people you have chosen to live with they are much more willing to trade secrets or, if you’re both on the same wavelength, go halves on a takeaway.