Whipping Up a Recipe: How Clarkies are Eating in Quarantine

Ivor Dolan, Contributing Writer

Many college students find cooking on their own to be a daunting task. “Cooking is scary but it’s fun if you keep trying it,” says Sam Rubel, a graduating senior at Clark. Rubel is socially isolating alone at a family house in Cape Cod. He has found that cooking during the COVID-19 crisis can be difficult.  “It’s hard with the food that I have because I haven’t really been going to the supermarket,” he adds.

As the crisis has continued to unfold and alter students’ lives, Clarkies’ eating habits have also had to change. Many students are finding new ways to keep themselves fed and make sure cooking stays interesting.

“At first, I had a negative reaction because I was thinking it was going to take me a long time to cook and I don’t really cook that much.  So I thought ‘I’m not going to be that good at it or I’m going to spend a lot of money on takeout,’” says Daria Manea, a junior who lives in a triple-decker apartment a block away from Clark.

Manea found herself having to cook as soon as Clark closed the Higgins Cafe and Bistro dining options. One of her five roommates, Clark junior Alyosha Otogawa, has long cooked for himself daily and was happy to help her get comfortable in the kitchen.

Manea admits, “After about a week, I was thinking that it was not actually that bad.”

Otogawa is a more seasoned cook, having worked in a professional kitchen, and takes a more advanced approach. “I think a lot about shopping, just getting all the ingredients for the actual cooking process,” he says.  “I think it’s important to plan out your meals during the week just so you know what you’re going to eat and you’re not scrambling at the end of the week.”

Rubel, who previously cooked for himself regularly at his Maywood on-campus apartment, is finding that the virus is making cooking more difficult this time around.  “It’s hard with the food that I have because I haven’t really been going to the supermarket,” he explains.

As a result, he makes sure to use everything in his kitchen before making grocery trips, “I have so much meat. I have a lot of ground beef, so I’ve been making minced beef sometimes. Sometimes I’ve been making burgers,” he says of his cuisine. “I cooked chicken thighs the other day.”

Sarah Asseraf, a Clark junior, who is staying in her apartment close to the university, is familiar with cooking for herself. Asseraf recognizes the difficulties of shopping, including a recent spike in food prices.  She says, “Keeping meals exciting has definitely been a struggle because I’m trying to save money so, buying new things means they’re usually more expensive.”

Junior Emily Maynard, another experienced chef left campus for home and still cooks—but for her family, for whom she has adapted her meals.  “When I cook, I cook for my parents too. I’m not usually making the same meals that I was when I’m just cooking for myself,” she says.

It was a different story when Maynard was cooking for herself at Clark. While on her own she says, “I would make three or four ideas for meals and make a grocery list and then go and get the groceries.

Clarkies have found that recipes can pose a challenge to those who are new to the cooking scene. However, going simple can be the best course of action, says Daria Manea.  “I do easy things like eggs or omelets or toast with avocado and feta cheese. Stuff I would get at a cafe for example that are good enough to make you feel full for lunch.”

Otogawa mentions online resources fondly and says, “YouTube is a great resource. I watch so many cooking videos, things like BuzzFeed Tasty and stuff like that. Just things that get you excited to cook.” BuzzFeed Tasty offers easy, quick, “hands and pans” video recipes which simply show the ingredients and how to put them together.

“If you do the rabbit hole of cooking, you can just save all those videos as a reference for later when you have no motivation,” Rubel suggests, pointing to his favorites on YouTube.  “Binging with Babish is pretty nice, and he has a series called Basics with Babish, which is actually what I use for cooking,” he says.

The show host Andrew Rea instructs on how to make everything from sourdough bread to Nashville hot chicken.

Wanting to help other Clarkies struggling to think of recipes, Manea describes her favorite salad, “You have lettuce mix with spinach and lettuce and stuff that you get in one of those packages and then corn, feta cheese, cherry tomatoes, tuna, onion if you want, and then olive oil, lemon juice and salt.”

Manea also suggests that if cooking is too daunting, there are still options.  “You can just get frozen meals or meals that are half-prepped already. I made frozen pizza one night and it was really easy to make or a lasagna I got at Trader Joes. It’s easy to find meals like that if you really don’t like to cook.”

Otogawa offers a more substantial entrée. “If you get some salmon and green beans and onions, you can just sauté the green beans with butter and some Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper. You can pop the onions and baby potatoes into the oven with some salt, pepper, and olive oil. Just bake them for a good 20-25 minutes at 375 to 400 degrees.

“For the salmon, I think it’s pretty simple. Just some salt, pepper, olive oil and fry it in a pan with lemon juice.”