Photo by Paul Goyette/Wikimedia
College students are not famous for self-reliance. Food, to most of us, means standing in line for a serving of stir-fry, a chicken breast from a big metal tray and a hearty blast of ketchup from a red pump. For the adventurous chefs, there's some Frank's Red Hot on top of the salad bar.
There comes a time, however, when all of that disappears in an instant and we are expected to commence feeding ourselves with what little is available to a liberal-arts major in an economic crisis. For Yale and for me, that commencement happened last Monday.
To ease the pain, Yale provides every one of its students with Undergraduate Career Services' "Guide to Life After Yale," a collection of advice from alums on how to deal with everything that might come your way. I naturally gravitated toward the food section, which contains a basic introduction for life without a dining hall. They don't have high expectations: "Occasionally your meals will turn out badly," it advises. "Remember, there's always pizza!"
Sometimes it seems like the only concern is getting enough calories in your system so that you can investment bank the other 26 hours of the day.
Most of the advice they give is geared toward a solitary existence. They tell you to freeze meat in individual Ziploc bags so you can defrost just one at a time and to make a big pot of something on Sunday and eat it all week. Good advice, but sometimes it seems like the only concern is getting enough calories in your system so that you can investment bank the other 26 hours of the day.
The dining hall is one of the best places to socialize at college, and there's no reason that food can't serve the same purpose on the outside. In the booklet they stress that cooking is cheaper then eating out, and having friends over for a big dinner is a whole lot cheaper than going to a bar, too.
Some of their recipes are perplexing--the "Yale Bowl O' Beans" features eight different kinds of bean and not much else, and some are elegantly brief: "Pork Tenderloin: Coat in mustard, broil ten minutes per side. " The most successful leave some wiggle room: more like guidelines then an actual recipe. A recipe is good--an idea of how to turn ingredients into food is better.
In this spirit, I've included what approximates a recipe for the beans I eat nearly every day. Take any specific instructions with a grain of salt. Or a teaspoon, depending.
Recipe: Dave's Beans
• An onion, not too big
• One can of black beans
• Seasonings: You might include cumin, oregano, salt, and chipotles in adobo sauce
• Corn, if you like it
• Some Monterey jack cheese (any sharp cheese will do)
• A tortilla.
• Some oil (maybe canola, or olive)
Cut up an onion until it is small enough to eat, then fry in oil over medium heat.
Add everything but the cheese.
Cook until done.
Add the cheese.
Mash up with the back of a fork.
Serve over a tortilla. Fry the tortilla in oil if you want the tortilla to be fried. If not, don't.
If not very good, eat with beer.