As the first night of Freshers’ flopped to an end, I insisted a new friend had to see my staircase kitchen before we parted ways.
“It’s small,” I said. “Right,” he said, looking at the two electric hobs, microwave, and kettle.
On the shelves below was a hodgepodge of kitchen equipment bewilderingly abandoned by previous inhabitants.
We had enough mugs to put on a brew for the whole college. No cheese grater, though. “Really small.” The two of us were toe-to-toe, the only way to fit us both in. The small gap between my nose and his did not leave enough room to disguise his disinterest. He glanced around again, unimpressed. “Mine is smaller.”
In my last three years at Oxford, I’ve contended with more kitchen tribulations than any beginner cook should have to face.
From neighbours’ mums bustling in to cook a feast for their studying darlings, whisks mysteriously disappearing (who steals a whisk?), the water supply cutting off right after mixing all the other ingredients for pie dough, down to other people’s crusty plates covering every available surface – it’s a wonder I managed a single pot of pasta.
Yet I did, and so did the other nine people sharing that kitchen.
When my whisk disappeared, I got determined with a fork. I served up a rubbery, inedible pancake, howled with laughter and let someone else take over. We ate cream cheese bagels on the floor, dreadfully hungover, moving only to fetch each other more tea.
I plonked steaming bowls of curry in front of tired friends, with enough left over for seconds.
Now I’m living out, with the delights of a working oven at my fingertips. My new kitchen is the perfect place to experiment.
Still, I’ll be eternally grateful to the grot and cramp of college kitchens, because that’s where I had my first cooking lesson. Where I learnt the key to good dining: that it takes more than food to make a feast.
Don’t know your sieve from your colander? Stay up to date with Cherwell’s Food & Drink section this Hilary Term, where we welcome Anna Lewis’ weekly column on improving your cooking in student kitchens, and a weekly student-friendly recipe.
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