Maybe you’re familiar with the fact that Oprah Winfrey has a partnership with Weight Watchers. This would not have been something I’d have known about had it not been for a particularly strange, and thus memorable, commercial I saw at some point during the past couple of years. Oprah advertised what seemed to be a new conception of Weight Watchers,hinging on one important factor for her. “I LOVE bread,” Oprah professed earnestly and seemingly out of the blue. To some, this could seem hilarious.
In my last column, I wrote about my adventures at Dilmun Hill Organic Farm, a student-run farm that practices sustainable agriculture on Cornell University’s campus. That afternoon, my friend (and a student farmer at Dilmun) Teddy Matel introduced me to the paw-paw, scooped me wild-bee honey and gifted me a batch of their produce. We left Dilmun on a mission: To make a delicious meal of out these ingredients — and, more broadly, out the terroir of New York.
My “college cooking” expectations quickly confronted reality during my first few weeks back at school this year. Since the last few months of my freshman year, I planned the big move into my first apartment, as well as built my website, the Collegetown Kitchen. I drew from my knowledge as a home cook, my experience working at a bakery and the advice of many trusted cooks to curate the perfect recipe for college cooking success. I wrote lists of pantry-staple ingredients one can’t do without and what to use them for, named every piece of cooking equipment a student might need, explained basic food safety and published over 3o recipes and articles adapted to a minimalist kitchen and a college budget. And then a couple of days after arriving in Ithaca, mono hit.
Spending the summer in Ithaca to enjoy the only two months of warm weather here is number 31 on the list of 161 Things Every Cornellian Should Do. I can proudly say that I’ve accomplished the feat this summer, and did it in a small two bedroom apartment with no AC to boot. The warm weather did little to ease the stuffy heat of the place, which directly faces the sun and held no relief from the most humid and hellish of days, but I like to think I learned a lot more in the tiny kitchen of that apartment because of the temperature. Simple lessons that I should’ve learned a long time ago stuck with me due to the heat, and here are just a few of them.
As a vegetarian, and one that doesn’t eat dairy except for eggs, I feel that it’s sometimes difficult to find options on campus or in Collegetown that are both flavorful and satisfying, so I end up cooking most of my meals.
Just as Ariana lists Big Sean, Ricky Alvarez, Mac Miller and Pete Davidson as her formative exes, I see omelettes (“one taught me love”), scrambled eggs (“one taught me patience”), poached eggs and rolled omelettes as milestones in my progress as a cook.
I’ve always been a little set off by tofu. The texture isn’t quite right and the flavor is almost nonexistent. Until now, I’ve been dead set against the mushy mass of protein and would never so much as give it a passing glance. Over spring break, I was determined to find a way to make this ugly food a little more edible in my eyes. While listening to an episode of Martha Stewart Radio (Don’t judge me! They have great recipes!), I heard of a technique for preparing tofu that sounded promising. They stated that the key to making tofu correctly is to really dry it out, marinate it in potent flavors, and bake it until its crispy. So I placed the tofu in a glass dish, wrapped it in a clean towel, and put a fairly heavy bowl on top.
There is a revolution afoot and I’ve picked up my knife and rolling pin in its defense. Call me spoiled, call it expensive taste, call it what you want, but I have such a deep loathing for the fast food chains of the world that this so called revolution is just what I needed. In my head, I’ve personified fast food. The greasy kid from high school with slicked back hair and an odor slightly reminiscent of lunchmeat. There is nothing wrong with the kid, he just kind of skeeves me out. Same with the 1200 calorie Triple Whopper sandwich from Burger King. This strange mash of meat, bread, and grease should just not be allowed to bear the label of “food”.