The Smoke of Student Cooking

University is often the first-time teenagers are left to fend for themselves and all genders are bound to take an adjustment period, but it’s clear that some slip into this lifestyle easier and quicker than others. The majority of us will burn something we didn’t know we could burn, set a smoke alarm or two off before deciding that a week of pesto pasta doesn’t sound too bad.

30 years ago, Matthew Broersma investigated who was the better student cook – men or women? Although cooking has nothing to do with gender and there are many talented female, male and non-binary professional chefs, there is something to be said in the role that gender norms play in the kitchen. The idea that “a woman’s place is in the kitchen” is undoubtedly outdated as many men and non-gender conforming people enjoy cooking, proving gender is completely irrelevant to the culinary skills of the student.

Broersman’s conclusion 30 years ago was similar, deciding that neither gender is very culinary talented when it comes to student meals and that the fault in cooking skills says more about how society teaches students life skills, which provides much food for thought (pun intended). Not much seems to have changed as a lack of cooking education before university still seems to be a problem for over half of students. James Eder, founder of Studentbeans, said: “Over half of students wish they’d learnt to cook at school and therefore go off to uni with limited cooking know-how.” So, it seems as if learning how to correctly chop a fruit salad in year seven didn’t go a long way for a lot of us. It comes as no surprise that a microwave was voted the most important ‘must-have’ kitchen appliance among students.

Students are given the label of being lazy, messy and all-round fairly incompetent, so it’s hardly surprising that “student meals” websites consist of quick and easy dinners. A lot of students are very busy, balancing lectures, independent study, clubs, societies, paid work, and (most importantly) nightlife. It’s no wonder that with all that going on, a quarter of us indulge in at least one takeaway every single week. It’s quick, convenient and feels like a treat, but also goes a bit over budget for a lot of us.

On the other side of the scale, being a student is expensive. There is a constant emphasis on cost when it comes to student recipes and this undoubtedly impacts the meals that students survive on. It is reported that over half of students have a daily budget of £2.50 to spend on food.

Tackling the cooking battle at uni can seem daunting, but it’s something which can quickly become part of your routine if planned correctly. There are lots of easy recipes online which can be cooked in bulk to save money on ingredients and frozen for later convenience. And if you’re confident enough to go for a fancier option, be careful not to set the smoke alarm off.

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Katy Fajkus

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August 2022
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