September 29, 2021

SMITH | Sink or Stir Fry

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When I found out about the Cornell swim test, I was somewhat surprised and certainly not excited. But I reluctantly admitted the benefit of this “life skill” being certified by the time I left college. It does make me wonder, however, why Cornell opts to help us swim and not sink literally, but leaves us to our own devices in many metaphorical ways. One way which has occurred to me recently is cooking and feeding ourselves. As a nutrition major, my daily life understandably has a greater focus on food than the lives of most people. And maybe it’s just my ego thinking my interest is so important it deserves special attention, but I do think feeding oneself is a life skill that few are taught. 

Cornell is a high stakes environment where it’s easy to wake up and not stop until you get home around 5 p.m. or later. Faced with a mountain of assignments, a growling stomach is usually addressed by something microwaved, takeout or another form of fast sustenance. I’m not taking a moral high ground here — I’ve ordered my fair share of late-night Chipotle and there is a bag of frozen dumplings in my freezer on hand for emergencies. But when we’re already testing our body’s limits on fronts like sleep, why are we not putting a higher priority on at least properly fueling ourselves? 

I learned to cook in high school after making the decision to become vegetarian — a decision which my mom opted not to accommodate in her family cooking. I burnt . . . a lot of things, but I came to college with the skills necessary to feed myself and make nutritious meals out of what I have on hand. As a nutrition major, I’ve also learned more over the years about what I need those meals to contain. 

Cornell already has PE requirements and the swim test, so how much would it hurt to include some sort of brief training on meal preparation? If college’s role is to prepare students for “the real world” once we graduate, why isn’t feeding ourselves included in that preparation? I’ve heard all kinds of stories about students who can code, titrate and write an essay like nobody’s business. Yet, I have also heard stories where students think they can cook pasta by stirring the water with the pasta in it without heat for 45 minutes. Student organizations like Anabel’s grocery have stepped up to fill some of these gaps, but there are still barriers there that I think the administration could help solve by offering events on North Campus or, for better or for worse, making it a requirement. I’m not expecting Cornell to churn out master chefs —  I’m a massive fan of “struggle stir fries” like those mentioned in Katherine Yao’s op-ed Cooking Poorly. There’s only a certain amount of hand-holding that I believe can be expected, and part of becoming a competent cook is just putting in the hours. That being said: Struggle Stir Fry 1101 anyone?

Emma Smith is a senior in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. They can be reached at [email protected]. Emmpathy appears every other Wednesday this semester.