Everything wrong with Cambridge Gyp Rooms
GBBO? More like GTFO.
Over the summer, I decided to undo the damage that the eating and drinking habits I picked up in first year had done.
I gave up carbs and took up running (at night so that no-one would see me; I’ll always be scarred by the observation in a year 9 P.E lesson that I run “like a posh horse doing dressage badly”). I did dubious diets I found on websites entitled “How to lose a stone in one week” and – miraculously – didn’t touch alcohol for over three months. This was quite the achievement, considering my sober self hadn’t been seen for so long that she should probably have been declared legally dead.
By the end of September, I’d lost 17 pounds. Adamant that I wouldn’t fall off the wagon as soon as I got back to Cambridge, I came prepared with a stir-fry pan and enough vegetables that I could probably have lived off them until Lent. This was the term I’d take responsibility for myself. I wouldn’t buy endless packets of maltesers in the bar. I wouldn’t suffer the shame of drinking Lucozade Sport exclusively as a hangover cure. I would actually cook meals.
Alas, the folly of youth. The earnest optimism I felt in Week 1 was that of a child on their first day of secondary school, before the subsequent disillusionment that comes from realising that no number of glitter gel pens can make up for having zero friends and a group of boys in your class who throw your pencil case and call you a nerd. (I’m totally over it, guys).
Behind me now are the days of being unable to imagine anything more indulgent than a paleo cheesecake (what it lacks in both cheese and cake it makes up for in oxymoron). I’ve gone from being an expert on the calorific content of courgettes to salting cheesy chips with my own tears at 2am – much to the disappointment of my mum, whose interest in clean eating extends to reading articles on the wonders of red vegetables and consequently prescribing them for all my plights.
Stressed about an essay deadline? A piece of pepper will put that to rights. Missing home? Red cabbage is better than home. Buckling under the burgeoning suspicion that a combination of crippling anxiety and borderline alcoholism have left me completely unlovable, and that I’ll inevitably end up dying alone after a lifetime of being unable to look after myself? Lol, bring out the beetroot.
The fact is, cooking at Cambridge is shit and gyp room anxiety is definitely a thing. Okay so I’m lazy as fuck too, which probably doesn’t help, but considering I now practically need to book a flight every time I want to go to hall (read: my second year accommodation is like an extra five minutes away), it should be considerably less effort to walk next door and turn on a hob instead. So why doesn’t it feel like that?
Well for a start, forget the Union; the lowly gyps are where the worst of Cambridge politics occurs. Who leaves the sink blocked and the surfaces spattered, who’s to blame for the bag of carrots mouldering away in the fridge, who’s the hedonist buying the full-fat milk – these are all issues we feel compelled to address. No matter what you’re cooking, it’s judgement that’s on the menu.
Then, once you’ve summoned enough courage to go in (after ascertaining that the coast is clear), the facilities are pretty woeful in my experience. I appreciate that there are bigger issues in the world, but the fact that the hot plate in my gyp room this year is too small for my pan upsets me greatly.
It took my roommate and me about two weeks even to work out how to turn it on correctly, because the numbers on the dial are completely illegible. Last year, the hob smelt so bad the first time I used it that I was convinced it was about to set the fire alarm off, and after weighing my hunger against the threat of potential social ostracisation, I then spent two hours trying to cook pasta with water from the kettle. I’d like to say that I’m stronger for this experience, but honestly, I’m just pissed off.
Going home at the end of term, I always feel a strange mix of indescribable relief and slight despondency.
But one thing I’m definitely not going to miss over the next six weeks is a kitchen which goes to shit every weekend and a fridge full of wilting vegetables that I bought and promptly forgot about.