Kitchen nightmares all students can relate to
Don’t worry – you’re not alone
Being a student is hard. Your dreams are reminiscent of the days where you’d come home from sixth form to find your dinner on the table and the cupboards stocked in abundance. But now, until our student loans come through, many of us live off beans on toast – yes, this is not just a stereotype – before squandering the remainder of our money on alcohol (seriously, it’s getting cold up here and a beer coat is often cheaper than a real coat).
I’m sure we have all had our fair share of embarrassing kitchen experiences over our time at uni. My flatmate’s biggest accomplishment since living here is learning how to cook pasta. And my other flatmate actually thought all milk was UHT, meaning that when it came to using it, the six-day-old unrefrigerated milk had become a lumpy mess. I get it, cooking isn’t something you can master overnight. And spending hours attempting to roast a chicken or chop some vegetables certainly isn’t preferable to relaxing on your sofa whilst refreshing your Domino's delivery status every two minutes.
As a fresher, I have found pleasure in things I never would’ve anticipated. The pleasant sound of the Tesco delivery van pulling up outside your accommodation, finding that your flatmate has washed your dishes for you and cooking a meal that actually tastes half decent. However, for many students, a culinary experience that isn’t a disaster is something that is yet to be accomplished. So, here are some kitchen nightmares that, unfortunately, all students can relate to.
Working your oven
It is an inevitable struggle that every student must learn how to use their new oven on arrival – unless they are prepared to survive on microwave meals for the next eight months (this is not advised). And yet, as though this task isn’t difficult enough, the accommodation services seemingly choose to install the most technically complicated devices. Because of this, even cooking a frozen pizza becomes a problematic series of trial and error, and hoping that it agrees with the smoke detector. On my third day I accidentally grilled a chicken breast so that the consistency resembled a hard, flaky rock, and a taste-test confirmed this. A month later and I still have trust issues – every time I use the oven I pray that my meal hasn’t been burnt to cinders.
Not having any food in
The first few days after going food shopping is bliss. There’s always biscuits to snack on, deliciously hearty meals, and no waves of panic when checking use-by dates. However, after this period of fine dining and overindulgence has passed, and your fridge shelf is sparsely occupied by a bottle of ketchup and some butter, it is back to searching through your freezer in an attempt to find something substantial (do chips count?). You curse your past self: your inability to plan ahead and ration food has come back to haunt you as your stomach rumbles. Don’t do it, your bank account pleads…Screw it, Deliveroo it is.
In many student accommodations you each get one shelf in both the fridge and freezer. This is perfectly reasonable for those who only buy enough food to last them a couple of days. But for most students this just isn’t practical: when the price of online grocery delivery can cost up to an extra £10, many of us use this helpful service to fully stock up on anything we may need for the next fortnight. The issue is, where to put it all? When taking your mayonnaise out of the fridge is an unwinnable game of Jenga, and you have to sneak another bag of chicken nuggets into your flatmate’s freezer drawer, this is an inconvenience that cannot be avoided. And the risk of an avalanche every time you open the fridge door gives you worse heart palpitations than being told you have a 2,000 word essay due in next week. Not ideal.
You’ve just cooked and eaten a gourmet meal – possibly your best one yet. You sit back, feeling full, but satisfied at what you’ve accomplished. Your mum has replied to the picture you sent her of your dinner – “looks delicious!” – and you can’t help but smile as you wonder whether to apply to MasterChef now or after you’ve graduated. That is until you look around the kitchen, which resembles something from a murder scene: pots everywhere, strange coloured sauce up the wall, and a number of things that have been squashed into the laminate flooring. No meal is a peaceful one knowing you have to actually clean up after yourself too. And it is times like these when you wish you’d opted for a catered accommodation. Bon apple tit!
That one flatmate who knows what they’re doing
Every flat has one. That annoyingly sophisticated flatmate who just seems to have their whole life together. When everyone else is microwaving ready meals, this person is stood at the counter seasoning their lamb steak with rosemary, frying oriental vegetables in their wok and spreading smashed avocado on their flatbread. You can’t help feeling slightly jealous when thinking back to how you learnt to fry chicken just three weeks ago. To you, making a meal that won’t make Jamie Oliver’s stomach churn seems like an impossible endeavour. But at least you’ve managed to avoid giving yourself food poisoning: so far, so good.
Having a back-up plan
You may have burnt your pizza, forgotten to defrost your chicken, added a little too much salt, or made something that’s simply inedible. All things that make you shout out in despair “what do I eat now?!” As a student you learn that one of the most important things is having a ‘Plan B’, just in case. And if you’re as unsure of your cooking abilities as I am, you will relate to the relief upon realising there’s Mum's pre-cooked Bolognese in the freezer to stifle your hunger after a long day of lectures.
How long can I keep my loaf of bread before I really have to throw it out? Why has my onion gone blue? Will I get sick if I eat this two-week-old stir fry? My flatmate even had to watch a YouTube video on how to season and roast a chicken. Over my time at uni I have googled things I never thought I would have to, and swiftly cleared my search history in fear of looking stupid. But when times get hard, a quick internet search always provides an answer to your food-related queries: what would we do without it?! And if all else fails, the classic "smell-test" on your out of date milk usually does the trick – what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.