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Wilfrid

College Cooking Memories

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Prompted by talk of mock turkey on the thread where we are helping Mongo with the elementary principles of duck cookery.

 

We here have a bunch of different college experiences. Would love to know how people stretched the budget. Did you eat in house? Could you cook back then? Good and bad experiences (how about other students cooking for you?).

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I got lots, but to kick off. A fellow postgrad and I agreed we would each make dinner for the other, to have a chance to discuss deep issues. His specialty was moral philosophy.

 

I went first, and made him shepherd’s pie. He ate it. Then he said, “I am a vegetarian, but since you cooked for me, and I failed to inform you in advance, I felt duty bound to eat it.”

 

Philosophy for you.

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I was fortunate (or not) to have food provided by my college.    But immediately after graduation I took an apartment with my roommate.    I took residence a month before she was able to move in.

I would go to the market and buy a pound of ground round and three zucchini.    Each night I would have a third pound patty and "someway" zucchini.   On the fourth day, I would go to the market and buy a pound of ground round and three zucchini.    (Weekend dates were a godsend!)    My roommate finally arrived and since she got off work a half hour later than I, she was happy to have me start dinner before she got home.    For the first week.    She then confided that she might never eat ground round or zucchini again.    My education in short order cooking began.

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A friend gave me a copy of the late Jay Rosenberg's "The Impoverished Students' Book of Cookery, Drinkery & Housekeepery."  Included is a recipe for bechinault which is based on chicken gizzards, butter and lots of garlic.  It tastes very good, though my rendition seemed to create serious flatulence.  But it was cheap.

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My first year of college (the flunk out year cause too many drugs), was in upstate NY. Brockport, to be exact, and there was no cooking allowed.

 

After moving to California, college resumed, first at Santa Barbara City College (perhaps one of the most beautiful campuses in the United States, overlooking the channel Islands, the Pacific - to say nothing of the gorgeous women), and then San Jose State. 

 

I remember a fair amount of grilled cheese sandwiches (with sprouts, cause California, and I had never seen a sprout). There were also avocados falling out of the sky.

 

By my second year, I was already in a relationship, living with another, and we cooked like real adults. I had taken some Chinese cooking classes, bought my first wok and cleaver, and we had some nice dinner parties in that home in downtown Santa Barbara. When we moved up to San Jose together, I planted my first backyard garden and harvested more tomatoes than I knew what to do with - and they were damn good. I remember growing chard, beets, tomatoes, carrots, lettuces, herbs, peppers, etc. 

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First 2 years were in the dorms, so full-on meal plan. Last 2 years were in a real house--I lived with my landlady, her grad-student daughter and for a little while her undergrad son, and a permanent boarder who was about 70 at the time.  I had full access to the kitchen, but the food I had to buy myself.  I ate lunches on campus, but breakfasts were what I was used to at home (cereal, toast, eggs on the weekends) and dinners were basic recipes I got from Mom plus a few out of "The Campus Survival Cookbook".  The latter was a relic from the early '70s and primarily pitched to guys, but I got a terrific chicken cacciatore recipe out of that one.  Ate a lot of pasta and made many things with ground beef and ground turkey.  First attempt at using dried beans resulted in the infamous "crunchy chili".

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I was never in a dorm. Seriously broke in my first year, I lived on basic vegetables (carrots, cabbage potatoes) which I would garnish with cheap cans of soup.

 

As a treat for the weekend, a reconstituted turkey roast, which would last for some sandwiches.

 

There was a good, real butcher around the corner. Cheap skinny sausages (chipolatas); and it’s where I discovered beef liver for the first time. About 60 cents a pound?

 

One good thing is that I had grown up on blood sausage, and in Bristol in the 1980s, it was widely sold and eaten, and very cheap. If I couldn’t afford fish and chips, I could afford faggots at the chippies.

 

Just in the six years I lived in Bristol, I saw the eating habits gentrified, and sandwiches of blood sausage or cheese with raw onion vanish from pubs.

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When my grant kicked in, I added countless meat pies to my diet. The pub where I became a regular served pies, and also big, inexpensive sandwiches made from the best, hand-carved ham and Cheddar you could wish for, which the owners bought from local stores they’d been visiting for years.

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A professor paid me to index his book, which involved visiting him every Friday evening for discussions, just around the corner from where the comedy show The Only Ones was filmed. With his cash, I’d buy chicken with pineapple from the Chinese takeout on the way home. Chinese takeout was a treat.

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It is possible to do tuna casserole decently, FYI.  My mom uses a recipe from of all places a giveaway booklet from Chicken of the Sea.  No cream of whatever soup or potato chip topping; instead, a white sauce with real cheddar grated in, elbow macaroni to stretch the tuna out, and tomato wedges on top.  I can't imagine that it cost very much--she was already buying the milk and the Cracker Barrel cheddar.

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When I lived off-campus, I'd make polenta (I was awful at it) when it was my turn to cook and I was pissed off at my housemates.

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I don't remember much about what I cooked, but I do remember trying to make a shopping schedule so that each pair of roommates took turns shopping for the whole suite of six, and how well THAT worked out (not very). Also the rampant stealing of other people's food during long evenings of impaired judgment. I really do not miss communal living.

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I love tuna noodle casserole.   Mom never made it and I never lived anywhere where it was served.   Exotic to me.

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