Student quote of the day:
“Yeah, but can mushrooms actually go moldy? I mean, they’re a fungus already right? Okay, right – someone Google ‘how can you tell when mushrooms will give you food poisoning.’”
• “Anyone have an egg cup? No? Well I guess a shot glass would do just as well…”
• “Guys I’ve eaten so many biscuits this afternoon I’ve given myself heart-burn.”
• “Jam donuts don’t really keep do they? Looks like I’m going to have to eat all 5 now then. Such is life.”
So I should probably mention the fact that I’m in self-catered accommodation for my first year, and although I’m aware I’m extremely lucky to have managed to secure a place in one of the coveted new Lafrowda blocks (oh so shiny and oh so close to the Forum) the novelty of having to cook for myself has worn off pretty damn quick. We’re currently two weeks in, and I’ve already resorted to four beans-on-toast meals out of sheer lack of inspiration to make anything else. I seriously don’t know how my parents managed it for the past 18 years.
The weigh up between self-catered and catered wasn’t a cut and dry decision for me – the flexibility of having my own meals when and where I wanted appealed hugely, but then so did the idea of not having to actually prepare said-meals. In the end I went for self-catered (against my parents’ advice), my argument to myself going something like this:
‘C’mon now Tess, you’re a reasonably intelligent, practical sort of person – you’re also doing a History degree for goodness sake, I should think you’re able to whip yourself up a meal twice a day’ (note: breakfast doesn’t require ‘whipping up’ – thank goodness for Shreddies).
The fact that Second Year is unavoidably self-catered also served as a sticking point: why delay the inevitability of culinary independence when I could get a head start now?
I’m not sure how much repeated cycles of chilli, pasta and tomato sauce, curry from a jar and stir fry (and once, exotically, risotto) count as a ‘head-start’, but although our flat all like to mutually complain while sweating away at the hob, self-catering isn’t as bad as I feared it’d be. The flexibility is really not something to be underestimated (breakfast in bed at 10am – booshucks to the catered folk) and as mildly pathetic as it may sound, going food shopping isn’t too bad either. There’s something vaguely satisfying about traipsing around the aisles with a trolley full of food that is purely just for yourself. I have also learnt a fair bit already, so here’s a few pointers:
• Don’t buy too much. Ridiculously easy to do, but do you really need that special offer for 12 caramel yoghurt pots? Even with the bargains and BOGOFs, try to resist: there’s nothing more disheartening than throwing out food you’ve paid for because it’s gone off. (Which happens a lot.)
• Vegetables. If you’re going to buy them, eat them. Simply putting them in the trolley to satisfy your moral compass on healthy eating and parents’ incessant texts about vitamins won’t actually do you any good.
• Plan ahead. Having a meal plan makes sure you only buy what you need, and that you use all of it. It sounds onerous, but it’s really not too much effort to put aside 15 mins on a Sunday night to jot some meals down for the week.
• Find a big supermarket. Oh it would be only too easy to buy 90% of the weeks’ shopping in the Market Place in the Forum – if it weren’t so heinously expensive. Walking the 20-minute walk to Morrisons isn’t ideal (and even less so on the way back, laden with shopping bags) but with other people it can be quite a nice chance to chat, and it’s definitely worth it for a full weeks’ worth of food for under £25.
• Don’t let the onions get to you. Thank goodness for science students.