Sometimes when I walk across the main lobby of my dorm, I see the community kitchen. At a glance though, the second word only comes across my mind. Despite having an array of cooking utensils and instruments, the kitchen doesn’t seem to be a community one, because I rarely see it full of students.
During fall semester, I participated in a meeting where a person associated with Residence Education and Housing Services asked groups of students what they thought about living on campus. One of the questions that arose was about our use of the community kitchens. Within my group, only two people really had used the kitchen. Both of them had only used the kitchen once.
I had never used the kitchen simply because, like the rest of the group, I already had a meal plan and it didn’t make sense to go out to spend more money to buy extra food. The amount of time that I would also have to spend getting the ingredients, borrowing the key and actually cooking didn’t seem all that appealing in addition to my already heavy class schedule.
I had this mindset for the rest of the semester, until I was invited to a social gathering at the kitchen in McDonel Hall.
Since I hadn’t actually had the kitchen experience on campus, I thought it was worth a shot and went over that evening. It was a pleasant surprise, to say the least. The variety of food made when we gathered at the kitchen was overwhelming.
The social opened with someone making pbseadillas: a vegan quesadilla with peanut butter, bananas, and cinnamon. I helped cook brown rice steamed in a large pot alongside some chickpea curry. We also had fried Korean pancakes, homemade lasagna, fried chicken, Mexican hot chocolate and an assortment of vegetables and meats cooked in broth.
Although some of the food was stuff students typically made at home, some people also tried new recipes. After two years of the same food made in the cafeteria and at home, it was a breath of fresh air.
When the gathering was over, I asked my friends who organized the dinner if we could do more kitchen-related events in the near future.
However, it turned out that it was incredibly expensive to bring in all of the ingredients and our dinner probably was going to be a one-time activity.
Having heard this, I once again was reminded of the same reasons why I wasn’t actively using the kitchens myself.
That’s when the thought sparked. What if the university supported a regularly-scheduled cooking event in the kitchen?
According to a friend who works for Residence Education and Housing Services, resident assistants are required to host floor events. Given how they can ask for funding from the hall governments to sponsor events, it wouldn’t be out of the question to use university resources to sponsor evening activities in the kitchens.
Some cafeterias already offer cooking demonstrations, so it would make sense to go a step further and bring those cooking demos to select kitchens throughout the semester.
This would be a great way to encourage students to use the kitchens because, not only would we be learning to cook, we’d also get to know more people on our floor and improve our living communities.
Community kitchens are hidden gems on campus. If MSU creates a program to house cooking-related activities for people on campus, I’m sure they’ll eventually become the top reason why students will continue to live in the residence halls.
Henry Pan is a chemical engineering sophomore. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.