Opinion | Students need more cooking-related classes

With so many young people living on their own for the first time, making their own healthy food would be a useful skill to learn.


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Vilnius, Lithuania – June 17, 2011: preparing of a homemade tomato sauce in a frying pan from fresh tomatoes.

Signe Nettum, Opinions Contributor

Cooking and baking have never been my forte. Growing up, I managed to burn my upper arm while making pancakes — don’t ask me how, I don’t remember.

My finest moment was my attempt to heat up a potato in the microwave while it was still wrapped up in aluminum. Yeah, watching dad put out that incident kept me away from cooking on my own for a while.

Cooking is a life skill that everyone needs to learn, not just to lift the weight off one partner in the kitchen, but to sustain a healthy life in any condition. Sadly, the University of Iowa does not offer as many opportunities as it should to help those who want to learn how to cook. Most dorms on campus don’t have kitchens. When they do, they are not always in great condition.

I knew about the “freshman 15” before coming to the UI, so I tried my best to eat healthy and exercise. While not everyone faces the freshman 15, a sudden change in diet and exercise routines can shake up a person in many ways. Access to dining halls, especially since the three on campus are all-you-can-eat styles, can become gateways to weight gain.

But no matter how hard I tried — which included searching high and low for the best vegetables in the dining hall and keeping away from the stereotypical ramen noodles in my dorm room — by the end of winter break, I hibernated and gained weight. I lived off high-carb foods from the dining hall and gorged myself on the self-serve ice cream.

Believe me, I wanted to learn how to cook so I could find healthier foods and meals to eat during my college career. I learned the basics of cooking growing up; just enough skills to stave off starvation when my parents left me home alone.

While I can search up as many recipes as I can find or beg my mother to tell me her secrets, in the end, I have no idea how to function in a kitchen. If every cabinet was labeled with exactly what was inside, I still would second guess myself and hesitate at every step of the meal prep, which has many times doomed my result.

As of this fall semester, the UI has one cooking workshop at the Campus Recreation and Wellness Center and provides two gardening classes; certainly not enough to sustain a whole campus of students, many of who may lack adequate cooking knowledge.

Learning how to make dishes ranging from hot meals to something as simple as homemade trail mix benefits students’ lifestyle, which in turn relieves the stress of figuring out what to eat. Even something as simple as a “take ‘n bake” system would be beneficial to those who may not have access to a fully working kitchen but want to seek out ways to eat healthier.

So, for now, until the UI carves out a space to teach its students to cook and thrive, I’ll sit with my plate full of microwaved pasta.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.