Everyone can cook and everyone should cook



Veerawin Su

A fictional character in a 2007 animated film set the precedent for a conflict that would become the plot of “Ratatouille.”  Chef Gusteau said, “Anyone can cook.” Now, almost a decade later, I still believe him. I am also saying that because “anyone can cook,” everyone should.  Obviously, every person is not going to finish this article and become the next Thomas Keller or the latest Pinterest food blogger, but everyone should at least have a couple of recipes that they can execute well.

Let me first clarify what I mean by cooking, because we live in a world where simply emptying the contents of a pouch into a bowl and putting it in the microwave constitutes cooking. By cooking, I mean preparing food where you start off with actual ingredients—and macaroni and cheese flavoring packets do not count.

We are now in college, a time renowned for experimentation. We make friends in new and unusual social settings. We work hard in more competitive spaces than ever. We learn a lot about our limits. However, with so many juniors with kitchens, it still baffles me when I see someone with a kitchen get an unlimited meal plan.

I cook almost every day. I realize that I am not the majority in that aspect. But at the same time, cooking a couple times a week is hardly absurd.

I know people who do not cook at all, and it’s unbelievable. Then, there are other people whose entire diets revolve around a combination of cereal, Easy Mac and frozen meals, and that’s unreasonable. There is a time and a place for Easy Mac, but it should not, by any means, be a staple in your diet. First of all, it’s horrifying that cheese and cream can be dried up into a powder, not to mention the lack of nutritional value in it.

If you do not have a lot of experience with cooking, try something simple.  Caprese is always an easy bet.  Seeing as it involves no heat, it is pretty much the most basic thing you could make. It is a combination of sliced tomatoes, fresh mozzarella cheese, basil, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar. What could possibly be easier?

On the marginally more difficult side, there’s pasta. Boiling the pasta for 12 minutes for al dente and throwing it in some store-bought sauce is also not a daunting task. If you’re extra creative, throw in a vegetable or ground beef and top it off with parmesan, and you have dinner.

Now, all you have to do is test it out.  And what better a focus group than your fellow hungry college students. There are countless times where I have invited my friends over to dinner only to preface the meal with the words, “Hey guys, this is my first time making this, so let me know what you think. I hope it’s good.” Feedback is a crucial aspect of cooking. You know that your food is tasteless if people start hogging the salt.  If your food tastes like the Dead Sea, you can always follow the meal by going to Chipotle. Do not be afraid—your friends are in their prime and an extra salty meal won’t send them to the ER any time soon.

Whether it’s chicken soup, chicken parmesan or chicken teriyaki stir fry, becoming comfortable with cooking a specific dish of your own is a necessity.  You will eventually have to cook for someone you care about, and it’s always a plus when you have a go-to recipe. Don’t end up as a contestant on Worst Chefs in America on the Food Network. Think about Instagram and how proud your mother would be.

Looking at the financial aspect is always a great reason to start cooking. A steak  at a nice restaurant could cost $35, not including tip and appetizers.  That same cut of meat costs less than a third of that at any grocery store or butcher shop. At the same time, you could make all the sides that you like with that steak at little additional cost.

The health benefits of cooking are also vastly underrated. Selecting with your own brain and your own hands what you are putting in your body makes you far more aware of what you’re actually consuming. Realizing that an entire stick of butter goes into that creamy vegetable dish you so love is probably a warning sign that you like the butter more than the vegetables. At the same time, you’re also not putting preservatives into your own food, and any nutritionist will tell you that’s a plus.

It’s your kitchen. Be wild. There are so many recipes to try out now, especially the ones on BuzzFeed or Pinterest. People made those.  You can too.  The only advice I will give to people who don’t cook a lot is to taste your food. If it doesn’t taste good to you, chances are it won’t to someone else. Keep in mind that food often tastes less flavorful when it’s hot and boiling than when it’s in a bowl in front of a person, so pause the salt for a second.