As campus prepares to close for Thanksgiving in two weeks, students must decide soon whether they want to stay on campus or go home.
If you haven’t decided yet, here’s something that might make your decision for you: all dining halls and most fast-food restaurants on campus will be closed starting Nov. 25.
Chances are, if you live on campus, you have a meal plan. Right now all of your meals are a short walk away and budgeting food is as easy as checking how many swipes you have left on your Tiger Card.
Once Thanksgiving break begins, however, this simple lifestyle will be no more.
For perhaps the first time in many freshmen’s lives, they will have to cook entirely for themselves — and when you live in a traditional residence hall, this can be an entire production.
Residence halls are no longer renting out cooking equipment due to COVID-19, so first and foremost, you'll have to make sure you have the pots and pans you need. Then, hoping it isn't too busy, you should plan on hauling all cooking equipment and ingredients to the communal kitchen, cooking, cleaning and finally returning everything — plus your dinner — to your room.
For the many on-campus residents without a car, grocery shopping — be it for lunch meat or lobster — becomes complicated. The grocery stores closest to campus are the infamously expensive Matherne’s Market on Nicholson Gateway and the CVS on Highland, which is only a valid option if you feel you can survive on beer and granola bars.
Despite these hurdles, if you remain undaunted by the prospect of learning to feed yourself, congratulations! Prepare to become a better person, because cooking a good homemade meal has nutritional, psychological and social benefits.
In one correlational study of over 11,000 people, “eating home cooked meals more frequently was associated with better dietary quality and lower adiposity [obesity].” People who cooked more than five times a week ate significantly more fruits and vegetables — and significantly less fat and sugar — than those who cooked less than three times a week.
Granted, it’s impossible to know from this data whether home cooked meals are actually healthier, or if people who like to cook also just like to eat healthy. What’s the harm in cooking for yourself, though, and seeing what happens?
Although cooking can be a chore, it can also serve as a creative outlet, a mindful exercise, or a way of reconnecting with your heritage through family recipes. It focuses your attention span and can help reduce anxiety (provided nothing catches fire.)
After hours of staring at Word documents and Zoom squares, imagine the relief of connecting with the tangibility of food. Unlike Moodle assignments and discussion posts, a meal has full sensory proportions — you can smell and touch and taste it. It’s a fruit of your labor that serves an immediate purpose, and an important one at that: feeding you!
In a non-COVID-19 era, cooking dovetails nicely with being around friends, chatting and having a good time as something simmers on the stove nearby. Such scenes are rarer these days, but by honing your cooking chops now you can be prepared for the dinner parties of days to come.
Besides, wooing potential partners is infinitely easier when you know how to cook. That's not to say you should date someone just because they make the best pasta carbonara you’ve ever eaten, but — well — the pasta definitely helps.
If you’re willing to invest the time, energy and money into cooking for yourself — or just unwilling to go home to your family just yet — then you should give it a try this year. Cooking could make you healthier, happier, more popular with your friends and potentially more attractive. If all else fails, at least you will have learned how to chop an onion.
Of course, if you have $6.98 laying around, why not just splurge on a Cane’s box combo?
Cécile Girard is a 20-year-old psychology junior from Lake Charles.