Monday, 7 May 2012

Love Heart Bolognese (Featured in The National Student)

Since arriving at university I have been fascinated with what students choose to eat when they are left to fend for themselves.

Student cooking I appreciate how this may seem a peculiar interest for a 21-year-old Journalism student, however I remain fixated nonetheless. With a background in cooking I suppose my main interest lies in seeing the limits that some will go to in order to save expenses on food. It's always entertaining to step into the culinary world through the side door, and see what fellow students can conjure up using ingredients from the bottom of the produce ladder.

I still remember waking on my first morning as an undergraduate to an aroma that can only be described as burning plastic. In a state of panic I ran to the kitchen to find my flatmate sat down reading a newspaper, unscathed. The smell, I came to realise was his breakfast. This assumption came purely from the time of day he was eating it, not from what he was actually cooking. I could not help but to investigate the pan that was beginning to smoke and burn in the corner before reminding him of its presence. I later found out it was a suspicious mixture of instant noodles, eggs, peas, chilli flakes and a dash of ketchup – now if that’s not a concoction of ingredients that would make Jamie Oliver scream, I don’t know what is.

Since, I have seen such dishes as peanut butter chicken curry (which trust me is worse than it sounds), braising steak stir fry and most memorably, love heart bolognese. This was a disastrous mixture of mince, onions, tomatoes, mushrooms, spaghetti and a secret ingredient – love hearts. The amusing factor being that he had successfully cooked spaghetti bolognese and then decided it a good idea to add sweets before serving. Now don’t get me wrong I’m just a typical bloke who will always try anything put in front of him. However, this is just a small list of the wild creations I have come across in my own experience; it seems too coincidental for these culinary mishaps to only follow me around? In an effort to discover more I hit the streets to annoy students with interrogations of their own university meal-time experiences.

I first came across Jack Lewis, a film and creative writing student. His gastronomic occurrences during his time at University seemed to have fragments of madness similar to mine. Jack stated, “I used to have a person in my halls who liked to eat Ketchup and Rice Crispy sandwiches” he even went on to say, “I also knew a guy who would eat raw steaks straight out the packet for dinner”. Now I realise that if someone likes to eat raw steak they have more than a right to do so, however I remain bemused at how one can enjoy eating parts of a cold dead cow – I doubt that I’m alone in saying it doesn’t sound like a taste sensation. You would hardly expect to see Gordon Ramsay tucking into a raw sirloin from the freezer section of Sainsbury’s.

As my search continued my mind was put at ease. I became aware that many fellow students do take an interest in cooking for themselves and seem to know their way around a kitchen. Art student Sam Robertson claimed, “I tend to eat stuffed peppers with couscous and vegetables because it is healthy and cheap”. He later said, “I regularly shop at the market for cheap, organic produce”, Sam’s concern for the standard and price of produce was a breath of fresh air as he breaks the social stigma that all students are not interested in cooking. Students such as this prove that there is potential for a relationship between students and food that stems beyond fast food and microwave burgers. However, among the selection of successful cooks I could not help but to notice a recurring theme between the experiences of many students. They all seemed to have tales of food exploration that had failed to impress during their time as undergraduates. History student Jon Sansam spoke of “ham and jam on toast”, whilst disaster management student Richard Davill claimed “I have seen someone eat a whole packet of raw bacon just to prove that he could”. Although it’s nice to see evidence that students can be enthusiastic and passionate when deciding what to eat - I’m not sure this particular pupil’s head was in the right place.

My most interesting discovery was how no student seemed to speak of recipes gone wrong through their own doing. This begs the question, are students embarrassed to talk about their own kitchen nightmares? Or is there a small group of people running around campus ruining people’s dinner? For now my search continues for further evidence of successful student cooking. Yet amongst the consumption of raw meat products and the many confusing mixtures of ingredients there is still hope.

Written by Seb Holmes

1 comment:

  1. As a student myself, I really enjoyed this article. Luckily (or disappointingly?) I've not witnessed any crazy food combinations myself! For some of my housemates it's often a case of impatience and they won't cook anything that takes more than 10 minutes.