Sunday, December 17, 2017
Cooking

Cooking basics for the hungry college freshman

Exuberant British chef Jamie Oliver has famously said every child should strike out on their own with the ability to cook 10 things. Boiling water is not one.

It certainly is true that the more they know how to cook, the better shape their budget and health will be. Still, it seems like a tall order.

Can their parents prepare that many dishes?

Home cooking role models may be spotty for many young adults. In recent years, according to Bureau of Labor statistics, the biggest share of our weekly food budget is spent on eats prepared outside the home.

We are raising a nation of children who know how to hold a menu but aren't so versed at folding an omelet. Still, it's worth the effort to teach your children some kitchen basics like scrambling eggs, baking chicken breasts and preparing a simple soup. That's three.

In my other role, I am an adjunct journalism instructor at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg. Last semester, I asked beginning reporting students to interview other students about what they wished they would have learned about cooking before they left home. Responses varied, but clearly everyone was hungry for information. E.)

One lamented that she couldn't tell when fruits and vegetables were ripe. Another admitted to a lack of understanding about spices.

Roaming the campus were students who didn't know how to make rice or hard-boil eggs. Determining when chicken was done was a mystery. Information on budgets and coupons would have been helpful, they said.

Many said they were sorry they didn't pay more attention when Mom was cooking. Yeah, Mom, too.

Getting started

Maybe its seems overwhelming but there are about seven weeks before most college kids take off. That's nearly 50 dinners. Even if you dine out for half, you've still got some opportunities to make sure your budding adult knows how to make rice. (Big hint: The instructions are on the bag, but it's generally 2-to-1, water to uncooked grain.)

Keep in mind, you aren't training them to be contestants on Top Chef. You just don't want them to think that cooking everything on high on the stove makes the process go faster. (Another hint: Grilled cheese sandwiches cooked on a red-hot coil will result in bread burning before cheese has melted.)

Instructions and dishes should be simple, making sure they fit the college budget and equipment inventory. The best way to get started is to have your student cook alongside you. He will pick up quite a bit by watching how you cut an onion or use a whisk. Show her how to take the meat off a store-bought rotisserie chicken and make sure she knows it's okay to use clean hands and a so-so knife (though a good one is a great going-away present).

Like music or tennis lessons, practice is what's needed to succeed in the kitchen. Or at least to become marginally competent. Not much of a cook yourself? The two of you can gather 'round the computer and find a YouTube video on how to cook just about anything.

When it comes to cooking, the Internet can be your best friend. Besides recipes and instructional videos, it's a wealth of information about ingredients and techniques. The multitude of home-cooking blogs are also helpful. Heck, the two of you might be inspired to start one.

Also, go grocery shopping together and explain your reasons for buying certain things. Show how you use coupons (or explain why you don't). Spend time in the produce section — it seems to flummox new shoppers. They want to know why you chose one tomato over another. Walk them through your thought process as you buy the building blocks for dinner.

Most of all, be patient and get input. What is it that they would like to learn to make?

If you don't know how to do something, learn it together. That will help get your own dinnertime repertoire to Jamie Oliver's required 10.

Janet K. Keeler can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8586.

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