Allison Wild / Sun Contributor

September 30, 2016

The Top 5 Reasons You Need to Take NS 2470: Contemporary Foods

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NS 2470 is offered both fall and spring semesters every year and meets for one three-hour lecture once per week, taught by registered dietician Emily Gier. Only pre-dietetics students can pre-enroll — but never fear, Terry Mingle is a great lady and will place you on the waitlist and send you a pin to enroll in the class during the add/drop period. While it is largely a cooking class, it also teaches students to apply nutrition principles to their cooking and meal planning and introduces them to basic menu planning and the process of fulfilling nutritional requirements on a budget. Learning to cook on a budget is truly an invaluable experience for a college student, as we’re all well aware. Plus, the textbook is the Betty Crocker Cookbook. It will probably be the only textbook you ever get that you actually won’t want to sell back.

1. You get to eat. A lot.

As everyone left class this past week, the professor asked, “Okay, are you all so full that you’re ready to roll out of here?” Every lab, you are required to sample at least eight different dishes, but you have the chance to taste every dish that is prepared. Some weeks there are nearly 15 different recipes, but if you have dietary restrictions, don’t worry: the professor is very understanding and will try her best to assign you a recipe that you can eat. If nothing else, the class makes it so that you one day a week when you don’t have to scavenge for dinner. And to top it off, you get to bring home your leftovers. Score.

Allison Wild / Sun Contributor

Allison Wild / Sun Contributor

2. You learn to cook.

There is a wide variety of dishes that you learn to make over the course of the semester. Even within one lab, students could be making cream puffs or tofu curry or anything in between. The main project for the semester is the meal plan project in which you design a meal plan for a day that conforms to a budget and meets all the suggested daily intake requirements. During the last lab, you even get to prepare the dinner that you included in your meal plan.

At the beginning of class, there is typically a demonstration teaching a particular skill, such as how to handle a knife or how to use a pastry cutter. Because the class is designed to teach you small-scale homestyle cooking, it is a quite useful and applicable in daily life. And even better, you don’t need any experience and don’t get graded on your cooking skills. You are graded solely on your participation, your sensory evaluations of the food in lab, and a couple of projects, including the meal plan project and a group presentation on cultural variations in food. No, you did not misunderstand. NS 2470 comes with no exams.

3. The professor is fantastic.

Emily Gier has a lot of fantastic real world experience that she shares with her students. For instance, when she was lecturing about starch-thickened liquids, she explained that one practical use for them is for patients with dysphagia who are not able to swallow regular liquids and therefore need thicken liquids like slurries. Plus, she likes to joke around and makes the class a chill environment.

4. You get to try interesting new foods.

How often are you given crêpes? When else is peach chutney handed to you? Do you ordinarily have homemade gnocchi? In 2470 you will get all these things and more. Some dishes are things I never would have thought to try or make on my own. Bacon and cheddar muffins and popovers are definitely not your everyday baked goods, and I for sure don’t get fresh baked cinnamon rolls or Black Russian Brown Bread on a daily basis. During the grain-based lab, there was a chili that was made with kasha and a Waldorf salad made with steel-cut oats. While these dishes sound pretty strange and definitely aren’t something I would ever come up with on my own or expect to be good together, they were two of my favorites.

Allison Wild / Sun Contributor

Allison Wild / Sun Contributor

However, when you have a bunch of twenty-somethings with varying levels of cooking experience thrown in a room together, some dishes are going to be flops that you’re probably not going to want to eat. At the same time, you’re also going to get some pretty incredible stuff. If you’re lucky, in your class there will be homemade mac and cheese ten times better tasting and better for you than any of the boxed stuff.

5. You meet a wide variety of people.

There are a lot of students taking NS 2470 who you would never get to meet otherwise. Many are nutrition majors or pre-dietetic, but the class also attracts a lot of engineers fulfilling a liberal studies credit, food science majors and other students from across all colleges who have a passion for food. They come from across the classes, too, anywhere from second semester freshmen to second semester seniors. The class is divided into kitchens that hold four students each, and you interact with the other students in your unit quite a bit. You also have the opportunity to get to know the other students in the class with whom you’re sharing ingredients, tasting food and collaborating on projects. With the exception of a few recipes, such as cream puffs, you work on your own, but the shared space and ingredients definitely make you feel like you’re part of a group.