student life

An assessment of cooking at the university level

Does cooking take a back seat for you now you’re at University?

Does cooking take a back seat for you now you’re at University? 85% of students, including those I have spoken to, “admit to being unable to cook at all.” I will be gaining a further insight into the stereotype of contemporary students and whether all of them should be placed under that same umbrella.

“Last year one girl didn’t know how to boil a potato so she just put it whole in a pan and it boiled dry…three times…she kept taking it out…scraping off the burnt bits and trying again. This set the fire alarm off and the whole block was evacuated…”

Its cases like these that make me wonder why something worthwhile hasn’t been done about the lack of student cooking experience before. A shocking one in five UK students have never been taught to cook.

Should Universities be the ones to help those in need at the beginning of their University career? 

‘Negative descriptions of student behaviour’ is the second most popular search on Google when typing in ‘negative descriptions’, doesn’t this tell us something about the overriding negativity that surrounds students and student life nowadays?! Students are poor, lazy and unhealthy. Do these statements ring a bell at all? Isn’t that what we students are continuously labelled as? Well, maybe for some it is true, but the rest of us might actually want to break away from the stereotype of a University student.

I have spoken to a number of current students studying at University who did not have any guidance in the realm of cooking whatsoever before starting and also as they arrived at University but they would have benefited greatly from it. As many of you will know, moving to University from the comfort of your own home can be a nerve-wracking and daunting experience at the best of times, making new friends, working at a higher level and being left all alone. But what about literally surviving when you get there?

When you’re living at home with your parents there is no need for you to seriously worry about what you are going to eat each day, but when you move into self-catered halls you have to learn, often completely from scratch, how to physically keep yourself going. Martin Jacobs “can’t cook at all”, which is okay for him as he is luckily currently staying in catered accommodation part of Brighton University.

He added: “If I was shown one on one, going through it [cooking] practically and not just by something you’ve read would be very helpful as books aren’t always very clear”.

Nicola South is in her third year at the University of Winchester studying combined honours in Performing Arts and Journalism Studies, who would have jumped at the chance of a cooking workshop in her fresher year.

“Having a cooking workshop would have benefited me loads!” South said. “I might actually be able to eat well if I’d have taken part in one.” But sadly there were no such events when she, or in fact I, began at the University of Winchester. I then went on to ask Nicola if there are any areas she is particularly worried about when attempting to cook, she replied that still to this day “I get worried about cooking chicken because I don’t want to die from eating raw chicken”4. Basic cooking health and hygiene classes would prevent this fear of getting positively fired up in the kitchen.

Try something new to get students cooking. A social cooking workshop for fresher students each year and basic health and hygiene leaflets handed out during the first few weeks in September would be the driving force in getting students to cook safely, hygienically and healthily. I have spoken to a member of the student union at the University of Winchester who demonstrated an agreement to the issue and would be extremely happy to further this idea potentially into reality.

I didn’t want to necessarily come to a complete clear conclusion at the end of this piece. However, I did want to create awareness from the livelihoods of students who may, without guidance, burn instead of boil a potato or worse contract fatal food poisoning from under-cooking chicken.

What do you think? Are you a student who cooks? Have your say in the comments section below, on Facebook or on Twitter.