On Finding Time to Cook in Cambridge

Cara Rogers explores the way Cambridge’s productivity culture affects our relationship with cooking and advises us to slow down mealtimes where possible

As a fourth-year master’s student, I like to think I’m a seasoned gyp chef – but I haven’t always been big on cooking. In my earlier university years, my Sainsbury’s shops mostly consisted of enough ready meals to last me through the week. And if it wasn’t a ready meal, I would be eating some very rushed pesto pasta in between submitting an essay and racing off to a choir rehearsal, or a pouch of Uncle Ben’s Spicy Mexican rice for lunch (which is nowhere near nutritious enough to make up a meal…). The overarching thing these meals had in common was speed and convenience.

Some gyp creations. Image credits: Cara Rogers

It’s a topic we’ve approached thousands of times by now, but I think that these old habits of mine were just another part of a productivity-obsessed Cambridge culture. The reason I was always rushing my cooking and my meals was because I was always hurrying off to the next event, trying to optimise my time. And I saw my friends doing it too – so caught up with deadlines and to-do lists that the (important!) parts of life around those things got lost or side-lined as just inconvenient moments in between productivity. As students, we sometimes skip breakfast, or eat lunch hunched over our laptops or on the way to lectures or other more important events – habits which only perpetuate the busy pace of our minds.

It’s taken me a while, but I’ve finally started reframing how I think about cooking and eating at university, thinking about them as enjoyable moments in their own right, not just irritants and distractions  from more important or exciting things. Crucially, I think that these adjustments have brought a new space of calm into my life.

Image credits: Cara Rogers

I take the time to research new recipes, experimenting with new ingredients. When I’m cooking, I try to enjoy the process, usually with a podcast playing in the background, rather than frantically rushing through it. Instead of always watching a TV episode or YouTube video whilst I eat (my house has no communal dining area, so eating is usually an individual activity), I’ve really been trying to pause what I’m watching and actually pay attention to and appreciate what I’m eating. In short, where food and cooking are involved, I’ve been trying to slow down the pace and dedicate more time to actually enjoying it.

In a perfect world, we’d always think about our food and eating in this way, but that’s obviously not always possible. There are added costs to regularly cooking from scratch which can make it inaccessible, questions of ability which might make frequent cooking more difficult, and less serious but still quite inconvenient messy shared kitchen situations.

But I’m not saying we should all be cooking three course meals every day, or that everything we eat should be made from scratch that morning. Rather, I’m suggesting that we should reframe how we think about and approach food, cooking, and eating. Meals aren’t just in-between moments of stress and irritation – they can be rewarding and peaceful in themselves.

So, while we might not always choose to – for various reasons – when we do cook and eat homemade food, we can and should take our time.

Feature image credits: Sianna King (left) and Cara Rogers (right x4)

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