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May 3, 2023

Culinary Autonomy: Cooking for Yourself

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When people think of college food, they immediately think of dining halls. They picture trays stacked with food, each containing offerings from the various salad bars and stir-fry stations from diverse ethnic backgrounds. At Cornell’s 10 dining halls, unique menus complete with customizable entrees, sides, vegan, vegetarian, kosher and halal options constantly rotate. This offers students a variety of exciting options that prevents any flavor fatigue, keeps plates visually appealing and exposes students to new foods. On top of this, the convenience factor of dining halls cannot be beaten, as busy students can quickly grab food cooked by experienced dining staff without worrying about planning, buying or cooking themselves. Meals on the go are even more common across many of the cafes and convenience stores which offer “grab-n-go” sandwiches, wraps and bowls along with the option of using Cornell’s Eco-takeout reusable containers.

However, it is uncommon for students to have the unlimited dining plan (besides being required to have one as a first-year student or West Campus resident ) due to cost, apartment living, being able to have more control over meals and personal preference. Being able to cook for yourself – or, having culinary autonomy – is a significant step toward independence and preparing for life outside of college. While some may see cooking as a chore, others may see it as a calming medium of self-expression and personal touch. Regardless, the big step of moving away from dining halls and into kitchens to cook is approaching for many, and this article is intended to shed more light on how and where to get groceries to cook for yourself. 

For those with bus passes and cars, Walmart, Wegmans and Target are popular grocery and shopping locations. To take the TCAT bus to Walmart and Wegmans, route 32 changes to route 15 at the East Seneca Street bus stop in the Ithaca Commons. Staying on the bus, route 15 will then go directly to the Wegmans bus stop and then the Walmart Supercenter bus stop fourstops later. The route 15 bus to return to campus usually arrives one hour later. For Target, route 30 will go directly to the Cayuga Mall bus stop, upon which Target can be entered from inside the mall. The route 30 bus returns multiple times within an hour to take you back to Cornell. Closer to campus, Anabel’s Grocery, GreenStar and the Cornell Food Pantry offer additional shopping options for students and can be particularly convenient for those located in Collegetown. 

Kitchens located in common areas of dorm rooms enable students to cook their own foods and are often equipped with stove tops, sinks and a common fridge and freezer. These can be a great way for students without a meal plan or on a limited meal plan to cook in the convenience of their own dorm building. Reusable cooking containers can be great ways to organize, store and prepare pre-made meals by saving time through cooking in batches. These containers can be brought onto campus and microwaved in the various communal microwaves across campus. Recipes found online can be a great place to start learning and experimenting. They can also be a great way to bond with family members and continue on family recipes and traditions. 

While culinary autonomy may seem daunting, unpleasant and inconvenient to many, the realities of having to cook for yourself are creeping ever closer as students get older and prepare for their lives after Cornell. Fortunately, Ithaca has many popular shopping destinations accessible by bus for those without cars. Convenient kitchens located in dorms offer accessible ways to cook and store groceries off campus. So if you’re heavily debating not getting a meal plan in the future or are unsure of your cooking ability, you never know how much you might enjoy the invigorating feeling of culinary autonomy!

Kyle Roth is a sophomore in the College of Human Ecology. He can be reached at [email protected].