Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Graduate Myth #9: Food

Students can't cook. Fact. Graduates magically acquire powers to ensure that mean they know the best restaurants and can whip up a soufflé to impress the boss. Fact.

Or not, as this mindset is actually a total myth.

We'll deal with problem number 1 first. To begin with, a lot of students can't cook, and that's with all due respect to students. Many eighteen year old people can't cook. That said, a few can, and most learn, out of necessity. Cooking well is perhaps a different question, simply because good ingredients and student budgets don't always mix. Nor do kitchens with any real living space. Then again, with a lot of free time, some students become very good cooks, and even better bakers. It's always cookie time when you're a student!

(Okay, I just love the Cookie Monster.)

Then again, university is the time when your mind can be opened up to new foods. I grew up in a household of fairly unadventurous eaters with some weird food aversions. Mum won't eat parnsips or peppers, and Dad dislikes pasta. All of the p words, pretty much banned. So when I got to university, I could cook, a little, but all of the new flavours that friend's cooking introduced me to basically blew my mind. I didn't even know what pesto was until I got to university. Now it's a mainstay of my diet. Arguably, my interest in food and food culture began at university, and now I happily eat things that still freak out my family.

As a graduate, am I a better cook? Well, slightly, but mostly because I can afford the ingredients (sometimes) and have a kitchen to myself. Honestly, though, I don't have the knack. I am a functional cook. I can throw together a meal from basically nothing, I can cook for a few weeks without any repeats, and and a push I can now create a three-course meal from scratch although I will use every utensil and fail to do the washing up. Most of my cooking, though, comes from jars and packets in some way or the other. No Come Dine With Me just yet.

Am I a discerning eater at restaurants? Well, I can read a menu better now, and I love going out for meals, but I wouldn't say I'm especially sophisticated about it. I get slightly unnerved by 'cuisine' as I don't know what most of it is. I'm best on Italian food, after traipsing around Italy for three happy weeks a few years ago. I'm also shameless, though, about going to chain restaurants, most recently eating my own weight at Gourmet Burger Kitchen (try the bean burger, it's epic) at lunch.

I went to aforementioned lunch with my Mum, and she was astonished that I knew what everything on the menu was. So I suppose, compared to when I was a green eighteen year old who didn't really know what a roasted parsnip tasted like, I am fairly sophisticated when it comes to food, and I do enjoy flicking through recipe books and trying new ideas. More realistically, though, very few people are miraculously good at food. Instead, it's a sign of growing up and moving around a bit, and trying new things.

But if you were the kind of student that ate nothing but beans on toast and Pot Noodle, then no, you are not going to miraculously be able to cook. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.

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