We're not children, so why are student cookbooks so patronising?

There's nothing stopping students from eating a lot better than they do - except their own apathy, says Eleanor Doughty

The Waterstone’s website has seventy-one different student cookbooks. That’s a lot of pasta and pancakes. I hate to point out the blindingly obvious, but isn’t a recipe just a recipe? There isn’t a specific student supermarket that I’m aware of, so according to my logic, no need for student-specific cookbooks. They definitely don’t make student-priced utensils, at any rate.

I admit that real cooking requires time, but in reality, unless you’ve turned into Nigella overnight – a fate I wouldn’t wish on anyone – then you’re probably not going to be spending four hours cooking your supper. And if there’s one thing that students do have, it’s time.

Before you jump on my back and tell me how time-consuming your reading, advance essay planning – who are you kidding? – and four-month-premature revision is, just take a step back. When you were at school, you attended for at least eight hours a day and still had time for homework. Some of you might even have had hobbies, or something equally vile and extra-curricular. And then you went to university and suddenly an eight-hour week – high five humanities scholars, bad luck scientists – appeared, with weekends that don’t exclusively have to be for drinking. Full-time work in the real world means that you really don’t have time to cook, so save your moaning for then.

And financially, real cooking – this defined by not being in a student cookbook for late bloomers – isn’t too heartbreaking. If you plan your meals – a concept perhaps unknown to those less anal than me – then it suddenly becomes alarmingly obvious, both financially and sustainably. Buying pizza in the Co-op at a hateful rate of two for a fiver isn’t going to help you in a quest for financial security, or even out of your overdraft.

The macaroni cheese I made during Sunday’s culinary marathon was an unadulterated success, if I do say so myself. I’ve been eating it all week – yes, it’s become repetitive, but what can I say? I just love mac n’ cheese n’ peas. And it didn’t even cost me five English pounds to make. Cooking for one – with a recipe meant for Delia’s ‘two’, but at least a normal person’s four – is very rewarding. Rather happily, it’s been a cheap week for food.

Despite what the nation’s takeaway franchises seem to think, not everyone wants to eat Dixie Chicken every night. I came to university with awkwardly – and unfounded – high expectations of my culinary skills. Two months in, the gutting realisation that Delia Smith’s skill wouldn’t absorb by osmosis hit, although I did attempt the recipe-under-pillow tactic just in case. But do I own a student cookbook? No – I don’t need my very real world life dampening down in the kitchen. They say you should dress for the job you want, not the job you have – I figure there’s no point pussyfooting around the stove.

Eleanor Doughty is a second-year student at Queen Mary, University of London. Follow her on Twitter here. She won't follow you back.

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