Home cooking away from home

Jay Lively

As the aroma of fried fish wafted out of the sparse, olive-green kitchen and saturated the entire ninth floor in Hugh Poland Hall, Louisville sophomore April King and her friends could be seen preparing a hot meal for themselves that was a welcomed departure from typical cafeteria food.

King, a self-described “dorm mom,” is famous for her home-cooked dinners that she whips up from scratch on any given night.

“I cook for like eight people, and I enjoy cooking,” she said. “Whoever comes into my room, we collect three or so dollars, and I go shopping. We cook pork chops, baked potatoes, hamburgers, french fries, spaghetti, lots of stuff. This year I’m gonna learn to make chili like my grandmother.”

Rose Bivins, a freshman from White House, Tenn., said the smell of a home-cooked meal is a mainstay on her floor.

“She’s always cooking,” Bivins said, referring to King. “I wish I could cook like that. I just cook for myself, usually box meals – baked chicken, potatoes, rice. I try to keep as healthy as possible. It’s not always easy.”

To keep things interesting, Bivins tries to use “The Starving Student’s Cookbook – The Classic Guide for the Clueless Gourmet!”, as often as possible.

“This cookbook has everything in it,” she said. “It’s awesome. For every occasion there’s a meal. I mostly use the section on microwave cooking. You can cook a lot in a microwave, like barbecued chicken.”

King said she always cooks on Sunday.

“I really miss a home-cooked meal on Sunday,” she said. “Before every meal we usually pray.”

Across campus, roommates Laura Ressler and Samantha Haycraft do their best to avoid going hungry. The two try to keep things simple, stocking up on a typical food selection for budget-minded college students – macaroni and cheese, bread, deli meat, chips, soup, Pop-tarts, milk and cereal.

“This is the first year I haven’t had a meal plan,” said Ressler, a senior from Evansville, Ind. “I’m trying to figure out what sort of foods to buy. Sometimes you only have time for something quick.”

But occasionally the two roommates get together with other members of their hall to cook a meal.

“Last week my whole floor got together to cook pizza,” Ressler said. “The RA organized it, and we all chipped in to get the materials to make it.”

Laura Goodwin, co-owner of local bakery shop Bread and Bagels, had some suggestions to make cooking cheaper and easier.

She recommended that students cook large quantities of food to last them all week.

“If you want to eat healthier, but don’t have the time to do it, you could bake casseroles or lasagna or pasta dishes and freeze the leftovers,” she said. “Make a big thing of soup, which typically gets better with time.”

For a quick lunch, and to keep things cheap, Goodwin suggests students stick with salads, deli meat and a loaf of bread.

But for some, money isn’t the biggest issue – a full belly takes precedence.

Sophomores Jenny McCollum and Rebecca Simms cook almost every night, each spending about $50 a week on groceries.

“We eat a whole lot, more than a typical person,” said McCollum, of Glendale, while laughing. “And we don’t really eat at DUC very much. We cook lemon chicken, beef stroganoff, anything Italian, and usually we have cookies for dessert.”

But finding the money to cook isn’t the only hurdle students have to overcome. Around campus the size of dorm kitchens is a gripe that can often be heard.

“The kitchen here is really ridiculous,” complained Simms, of Lebanon. “Only one person can fit at a time. I get lonely when I cook.”

When King and her friends cook it is a community event, but for McCollum, the recipe to her favorite dish is classified.

“I can’t tell you about my lemon chicken, it’s a secret.” she said. “I just know what to put in. It’s a little different every time.”

Although King enjoys sharing her recipes and food with friends, her entrepreneurial side may win out.

The marketing major is considering starting up a business on the side.

“I was thinking about starting to sell plates to people,” King said. “Because, in a few weeks, everyone’s gonna be sick of everything in DUC.”

Fixing hot, home-cooked meals not only helps people stay healthy, but also helps with school, she said.

“When you’re full you get your work done,” King said. “You can concentrate more and do better in school with a balanced diet.”