Not all kitchens are created equal at Wesleyan. Some senior houses and program houses have big, spacious areas to cook. Most dorms and apartments have slightly smaller—or maybe a lot smaller—kitchens. The HiRise apartment kitchens often feel minuscule. Try getting more than two people in there and, well, you know what they say about too many cooks in the kitchen.
Cooking in a small college kitchen requires creativity and using what limited resources you have on hand. For example, in some HiRises, there is only a mini-fridge, which can often limit your choice of ingredients to whatever you can carry back from one trip to Weshop. Cooking in small spaces also requires that you do a lot of tasks with your hands that you might otherwise do with a food processor or some other gadget you have at home (remember, there was some point in history when everyone was preparing food with their hands). Finally, it forces you to deal with stoves that decide to start smoking every time you turn them on. But, most importantly, it makes you better at cooking.
The New York Times columnist and cookbook author Mark Bittman has long argued that all you need is a small, simple kitchen to make great creations (then again, he is “The Minimalist”), and I think he’s right. Being in a small kitchen is no excuse for bad food. Much as anyone (myself included) would love a six-burner Viking range, the charming appliances of Junior Village are not a barrier to cooking and eating well.
Anyone at Wesleyan who cooks is well aware of the limitations of some on-campus kitchens; the kitchens in the Nics and the Butts, for example, are not always the most inviting. Often, students feel that, given the limitations of those kitchens, their ability to cook great food is undermined. Dim lighting, finicky ovens, dirty counters and limited supplies are challenging, but they do not prevent you from cooking delicious, satisfying meals.
So if you’re in college, or in a small apartment, get creative. The next time you want to make a meal, try using just what you have around and see how it turns out. There are probably many more delicious meals waiting in your fridge and cabinets than you think. Next time you want to make dough with a food processor, use a fork and your hands instead. Next time you’re about to order take-out or go to the dining hall, try making something new. Make it simple and easy.
If you’re in a dorm room, utilize your dorm’s kitchen or make yourself a simple dish in the microwave. If you have a tiny kitchen in an apartment, don’t let that get you down. Just start cooking. There’s no lack of simple recipes on the Internet that could give you inspiration, but you don’t need recipes if you don’t want them. Think about your favorite foods and the flavors you like. Try recreating a dish you love. Cooking is more forgiving than you might think.
Delicious food is a result of the dedication of the cook, not the size of the kitchen. So experiment. It won’t turn out perfectly every time, but that’s how you become a better chef. Make it again. Try it a different way. And next time, add more salt, damn it!