Sunday, August 25, 2013

Cooking and the College Girl: Stocking the Kitchen

Let's say you're nineteen, and in six days you go back to school, far far away from Mom and the happy home kitchen, where you just got through washing about eight bazillion dishes so maybe we should be calling this post  Escape From the Happy Home Kitchen,  but anyway.

So say you're going back to school and this year, because you are an official Big Girl On Campus, you are not moving back into the dinky dorm with the electric kettle balanced on the edge of the shared sink, oh no:  you are moving into An Apartment. With Friends. And a Kitchen. And No Meal Plan. Which means . . .

Pop Tarts.

No, try again. I mean, it could mean Pop Tarts. You can have Pop Tarts for dinner (just don't tell me if you do). But what you hope, and what I hope, is that it means cooking for yourself.

And really, you're a pretty good cook. Those pork chops last night:  good. Brownies:  to die for. Dijon chicken:  delish. Fancy tuna salad with craisins and grapes and pine nuts:  a thing of excellence. So we know you can do this, right? But what we also know is that it's a lot easier to cook good meals in a reasonably well-stocked kitchen, which yours will not be -- until you stock it, that is.

You'll be going grocery shopping right smartish, I presume, since they who do not grocery shop should not eat. So let's think about what ought to go on that first list, that list not only of what you want to eat RIGHT NOW, but of what you want to keep on hand so that you can make what you want to eat RIGHT NOW, day after day after day.

Item 1:  The Spice Rack

This is important. Spices can be a little pricey, but a bottle will last you a long time and see you through many different kinds of meals. Buy them now, and you're set.

Here are my staples:

ground black pepper
white pepper (good on pork;  Julia Child loved it on just about everything)
*garlic powder
*onion powder
chili powder
curry powder
ground cloves

*I know, I know. Better to use fresh. But when you're in a hurry, and you don't have a car to get to the store, it's nice to have a reasonably imperishable supply that doesn't grow green stalks when ignored. 

I feel as though I'm forgetting something important on the spice list, but I can't think what, and I'm too lazy to go look at my own spice collection. Anyway, that's more or less my list of basics, without which the kitchen cannot function. After the first shopping trip, you can strike off that part of the shopping list and only replenish things as they run out.

Item 2:  The Cupboard

* 1 5-lb bag flour
(whatever kind you like. I'm a King Arthur Whole Wheat kind of person myself. Even for brownies)
*baking powder
sugar or honey or both
cocoa powder (also really good in homemade chili)
oil:  I'd get both olive oil (not extra-virgin, for cooking) and coconut oil. You can get some extra-virgin olive oil to have on hand for salad dressings. Keep it in the cupboard, out of the light, when you're not using it, and it will stay non-rancid longer.
can tuna
**can soups
**can beans
***can diced tomatoes/tomato paste
rolled oats/oatmeal

*For those who like to bake. Otherwise, don't bother, though you do use flour for things like sauces. A sack of flour will last you a good while. You may wish to put your flour in a glass canister to keep bugs out of it, and to keep it from spilling annoyingly in the cupboard. So "glass canister" would be a good item to add to the list for the first shopping trip.

**more expensive than making your own soups and dried beans, but let's be real. This is a college apartment, not a third-floor homestead. Look for sales and stock up on whatever is marked down this week. These are good for emergency meals, when you're in a hurry or out of everything else.

***The Organic Food Stasi want you to know that eating canned tomatoes will kill you. Mom wants you to know that eventually and inevitably something will kill you, and canned tomatoes are one of the slower methods. Meanwhile, they're awfully useful for chili, soups, pasta sauces, dumping on chicken or pork chops with some herbs, and so on.

Item 3:  The Fridge

These items you will buy weekly:


*You might plan 3-5 meat meals per week and buy very small packs of the meats you want:  chicken, pork, beef. Alternatively you can buy a huge pack of, say, boneless pork chops or chicken thighs, and cook it up at one go, then use the meat in different ways for days on end:  a pork chop for dinner, then a pork sandwich for lunch, then chopped-up pork in stir fry or fried rice or a burrito . . .  A rotisserie chicken can last you for several meals, too. Omelettes are a good Friday and emergency stand-by, as are the tuna, beans, and soup you have stockpiled in your cupboard.

**Don't go that overboard on fresh fruits and veggies -- that is to say, don't buy more than you can eat before they go bad. Besides, you have . . .

Item 4: The Freezer

When I was in college, the freezer was where you kept your Lean Cuisine. You, however, are smarter than that. 

frozen vegetables: chopped spinach, green beans, peas, lima beans, whatever you like

frozen fruit:  blueberries, raspberries, peaches (good for smoothies, for putting in muesli and oatmeal, for making cobblers for dessert, and so on)

maybe some frozen meat:  a bag of chicken leg quarters (cheap, and you can pull one out at a time, at need, and they'll last you a long time) or burger patties.

I have to go finish making dinner now, and I'm sure I'm forgetting all kinds of things. Please feel free to fill in my blanks for me in the combox. Oh, and pop tarts. Don't forget the pop tarts.

ADDENDUM:  In Which the College Girl Gets All Domestic Goddessy (yes, that's her real hair)


Anne-Marie said...

Items I would add:
Dill and chives in the spice cupboard; also, five-spice powder and Old Bay seasoning but I realize those aren't staples to most people!
Dried fruit in the pantry cupboard (raisins to start with, cranberries and others once you find Aldi or another source cheaper then the regular grocery store).

Sarah said...

At first glance I might also add:
Cereal - not the world's healthiest breakfast, but college students do have those run-out-the-door mornings...
Large containers of Tea and Coffee
Chicken/Beef Stock or Bouillon for quick soups, etc.
Nuts/Choc. Chips/Dried fruit depending on her baking and oatmeal preferences.
Baking Soda
Sugar if you're a baker or want to make yourself cocoa, etc.
Syrup (only if you're a regular maker of pancakes/waffles/etc.)
Good list. Wish I'd had this when I moved into my first college apartment. Practically speaking, though, I moved into an apartment that already had three residents who'd taken up most of the fridge, freezer, and pantry, so perhaps just as well I didn't :).

Sarah said...

Oh, and also perhaps bread and/or bagels. If there's room, the good stuff can be bought in bulk when it's on sale, double-bagged, and popped in the freezer.

Sally Thomas said...

Oh, these are great add-ons to the list. I knew I was forgetting important things. Dill! How could I forget dill? Dried fruit is great, too, though I don't know if she can get to an Aldi. They seem mostly to go to Wal-Mart.

I should have added Greek yogurt and granola, too, at least for this particular student -- that's her favorite quick breakfast, rather than cereal, and you can mix it up with fruit the night before.

Sally Thomas said...

They'll all be new to this apartment, too -- it's not Old Mill, but one of the on-campus ones -- so that kitchen will be empty on the first day!

Redblur63 said...

Sally, PM me her address, please. Perhaps a care package will find its way to her. Love to all!

Sally Thomas said...

Ooh, she would love that. I'm actually planning some Amazon grocery shopping for her as well, as a goodbye gift. Now I have to go hunt down her address -- I can remember everything but the actual box number, which is kind of key. So to speak.

Sally Thomas said...

It is going to be a busy semester. She's doing the big Junior Poets course that all English majors have to do -- it's like a mini-thesis on a particular poet (hers is Elizabeth Bishop) -- plus two medieval/Renaissance history classes, I think, plus a philosophy, plus I think she's auditing German so that she can placement-test in next semester (the course schedule this term clashes with JPo . . . ). She did intimate that care packages would be particularly welcome this fall . . .

Melanie Bettinelli said...

Do they have Aldi in Irving now? I know the Albertsons we went to when I was a student closed years ago.

I'd add red pepper flakes to the spice cabinet.

Rice and pasta to the pantry. And maybe soy sauce.

Mustard to the fridge.

Oh Elizabeth Bishop will be a lovely Junior Poet. I do hope she has as much fun with the project as I did. I still think it was the single best academic experience I have ever had.

Sally Thomas said...

I'd rather think about Elizabeth Bishop than the pantry any day . . . Though one of my things by her is her "Efforts of Affection" memoir of Marianne Moore, in which she quotes Moore as saying that she thinks about poems "even when I'm *dusting,* Elizabeth."

Sally Thomas said...

One of my *favorite* things by her, I meant to say.

Sally Thomas said...

I write the way my 9-year-old reads -- every third word missing.

Anne-Marie said...

Do you know Viloa Meynell´s poem ¨Dusting¨? I think Eleanor Farjeon quotes it in the introduction to _The Little Bookroom_:

The dust comes secretly day after day,
Lives on my ledge and dulls my shining things.
But O this dust that I shall drive away
Is flowers and kings
Is Solomon’s temple, poets, Nineveh.

Sally Thomas said...

Oh, I love that! And no, I didn't know it.

pauler said...

For old times sake you have to send her a box of cous cous and whatever the ingredients for "noodle goo" were. I remember that vividly.

Sally Thomas said...

Hoo, even I can't remember what was in noodle goo. I think my brain is in post-traumatic food-stress mode with regard to things I cooked in and shortly after college. My husband is too nice to tell the world what my cooking was like when we married, and again, I've managed to block a lot of it out, but there are cooking memories that make me totally cringe.

The girly is doing pretty well so far -- she's had friends in to dinner and breakfast, even. And she does know couscous!