What's Cooking?

by Caroline Hansen | 9/25/14 6:28pm


Remember your freshman dorm kitchen? Most likely crusty, unused and stocked with the food of terrifying upperclassmen who would toss a blasé (most likely off campus, which, as a sophomore, I am still embarrassingly in awe of ) dish in the refrigerator for maybe weeks, but no one would have the nerve to walk to the side of their hall to say anything? Although I can’t necessarily complain coming from the McLaughlin cluster (for the ’18s — the dorm of Ill Fayze anthem fame), I too experienced this phenomenon of having a seemingly arbitrary and useless room in the middle of my floor. Once a floormate, a sweet football player from Tulsa, Oklahoma, decided to treat us to mac and cheese with the help of the kitchen. When we smelled burning noodles and peered in upon the soggy, fluorescent mess in front of us, we were greeted with a good natured “you’re supposed to use half-and-half in Easy Mac, right?” After that, I limited my usage of the kitchen to hot water and heating up Collis leftovers.

Yet there are those who pride themselves on successfully using campus kitchens, not only for making Easy Mac, but also fabulous dishes that are unexpectedly and consistently delicious. Morgan Sandhu ’17 used her kitchen frequently last year when she lived in Bissell in the Choates cluster.

“It’s funny going from home where almost every meal was home-cooked to school where we have very little say in what’s being prepared on a daily basis,” Sandhu said.

Most of Sandhu’s cooking is reserved mainly for the creation of desserts, like her delicious oatmeal chocolate chip recipe. She bakes frequently for friends’ birthdays. Sandhu noted that at school, cooking and baking tend to be a very social activity.

“I don’t think I’ve ever baked alone,” Sandhu joked.

Other campus chefs said that they often cook using campus facilities because of dietary constraints not met by the College’s dining options — namely severe food allergies. Kate Huffer ’15 noted that when her dad was diagnosed with severe food allergies, her family’s home cooking increased. When she herself was diagnosed with barley, sunflower oil, fruit, potato and nut allergies in high school, Huffer brought her new recipes to Dartmouth and her kitchen in McLane hall. The McLane dorm kitchen remains her favorite kitchen that she’s cooked in at Dartmouth, due to its close proximity and nice facilities, she said.

“I’m hard to feed unless you cook everything from scratch,” Huffer said.

With Dartmouth Dining Services out of the question, Huffer quickly found floormate friends the first week of school who were interested in her signature cinnamon rolls. Huffer said that to this day, although she will enjoy a light breakfast and lunch with the limited campus dining options available to her, she continually makes herself dinner — often in large batches in the beginning of the week that she will eat for the rest of the week, along with assorted baked goods. This week, she made soup for her dinner, with apple bread — which I ogled for almost the entire interview and got the lucky chance to try at the end. It was out of this world, made with seasonal apples and a touch of cinnamon. I devoured it in one bite.

Huffer’s cooking experiences, however, have not come without mishaps. Once she tried to cook a triple-layer cake with only one pan, waiting for each individually iced layer to cool before making the next one.

“I ended up being [in the kitchen] for seven hours,” Huffer said. Caroline O’Donnell ’14 Th’15 also said her gluten allergy restricts campus dining options and necessitates cooking, which was made possible last year when she moved into an off-campus house.

“I was sick of what DDS had to offer me, and I find that I can easily make more flavorful things,” she said.

She said that last year she used DDS as a “grocery store” to buy ingredients, and then supplemented those ingredients to make a better meal when home at night. These dinners include sandwiches, salads, chicken dishes, mixed vegetables and veggie and turkey burgers, among others. Her favorite meal to cook, a pizza with sweet potato, kale and pesto, is as inventive and delicious as it sounds, I took her word for it.

O’Donnell’s kitchen was particularly familiar to me because she lives in the same off-campus house as my sister, who was a ’13 — although if my memory serves correctly, I only witnessed Bailey’s kitchen as a storage space for many different flavors of ice cream and an odd variety of vegetables.

Others enjoy the health benefits gained from making their own meals.

By removing grains from his diet and replacing them with a strict regimen of proteins, veggies and legumes, Cody Bell ’15 said that he has lost about 30 pounds. Bell has breakfast (usually three eggs and a link of sausage) and dinner (typically meat of some kind and a mixed vegetables and legumes) every day at the apartment he has lived in since sophomore summer, with a quick lunch on campus. Bell also enjoys the advantage of cooking rather than spending money on preordained campus meals. Even with the added costs of kitchen tools and groceries, Bell said he believes that cooking on the off-campus meal plan gives him increased freedom to decide what he wants to eat for a lower price than a full meal plan.

Not only cheap and healthy, cooking also helps Bell connect with friends by hosting dinner parties at his apartment. As a senior, Bell said that these parties enrich the already close connections that he has with friends and help him connect with them in a more intimate setting.

“Sometimes you’re not always in the mood for Collis stir-fry,” Bell said. “To find a good kitchen — it does wonders for you.”


Bonus Recipe!

Very Chocolate Brownies

From: Janine Huffer, adapted from a Taste of Home recipe

Makes: 9” x 13” pan of brownies

8 oz unsweetened chocolate

1 1/2 cup butter

4 cups sugar

6 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour


In a microwave or double boiler, melt chocolate and butter; cool for 10 minutes. Add sugar and mix well. Stir in eggs and vanilla. Add flour and mix well.

Grease a 9” x 13” pan, and pour batter into pan.

Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out with moist crumbs (do not overbake). Cool completely before cutting.