When you move first move into student halls and find yourself surrounded by a bunch of new faces, there are a few things that are immediately established between everyone by the end of the first night. This tends to include: 1) where you’re all from and what you’re studying, 2) who can actually stomach tequila, and 3) who can cook.
I couldn’t cook a single meal before I came to study at Sheffield. If push came to shove, I might have been tempted to boil some pasta and grate some cheese over it, or if I was feeling really adventurous, sprinkle some seasoning on a salmon fillet and put it in the oven for 20 minutes. In my first semester, I usually relied on ready-meals or a late night bowl of cereal. Although I lived with a few people who were cooking extraordinaires from the offset, I’d say that a lot of students start off roughly in the same boat I found myself in.
Cooking is a bit like learning to do your own washing and working out how to clean a bathroom properly: you’ll have to learn how to do it eventually. It’s a huge part of becoming independent and self-sufficient, and whilst in the beginning you might resent it and yearn for your mum’s roast dinners, ultimately you’ll feel glad you did it. Although I understand why some people just don’t enjoy cooking, (it gets too hot in the kitchen, its too time-consuming, etc), I think most would agree that it feels pretty great when you spend time making something and it comes out tasting lovely.
Many people come to university completely unprepared to look after themselves. By the end of my first year, I consciously decided that I no longer wanted to be incompetent in the kitchen, and would have to learn how to cook a few things over the summer (how else would I break the cycle of tucking into chicken dippers three nights a week?). Now, I think I’m actually a pretty good cook and what’s more, I really enjoy it! Likewise, I can’t think of a single friend who is still relying on ready-meals in their final year. Some of the tastiest meals I’ve had recently have been ones cooked by my friends, and thanks to them I’ve had my eyes opened to the likes of vegan cooking, Thai cuisine and some really gorgeous baking.
It’s completely normal to begin life at university content with Dominos takeaways and Tesco Everyday Value pasta. But at the end of the day, being a student is all about learning – and that includes figuring out how to boil an egg or roasting some vegetables. Moreover, as your degree becomes more intense and getting over 40% actually matters, pot noodles just won’t cut it. Your overall health is important and now you’re entirely responsible for maintaining it (scary). Once you’ve mastered the basics, there are tonnes of student cookbooks that are dedicated to making meals on a budget. So put the oven chips down and get cooking, you might even enjoy it.