Baby Steps to Creative Cooking


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Baby Steps to Creative Cooking
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At some point in your college life, you will be forced to cook. It's pretty much a given. Maybe your parents will come visit and you will want to impress them with a spectacular brunch. Maybe you will suddenly have an unquenchable craving for your mother's enchiladas. Maybe you will bring a really cute girl back to your apartment at 3:00 a.m., and she'll dreamily say, "Tonight would be perfect if we could make milkshakes." Yeah right, but that would be really cool if it actually happened.

Realistically, what will probably happen is you will move out of the dorms and then run out of Ramen. This dilemma is nothing to get upset about-many great chefs learned to cook out of similar necessity. If you handle the situation with grace and ingenuity, you will fare well.

The hurdles, however, are many. Cooking for oneself can be expensive if you are new to grocery shopping. Furthermore, pretty much every recipe serves six to eight guests or requires some sort of cooking gadget that no one under the age of 40 actually owns. So how to begin? The best way is just to go for it.

Grocery shopping becomes exponentially easier each and every time, and Berkeley has been blessed with a great selection of markets. There is Safeway, for those of us who enjoy our frozen food, cereal and bargain prices-if you don't have a Safeway Club Card, just use your roommate's number. We also have a Trader Joe's, for those who enjoy eating good food but not necessarily cooking it. Just kidding, we love Trader Joe's-their boxed butternut squash soup is the best we've ever had. And last but definitely not least, there is Berkeley Bowl.

We discussed Berkeley Bowl a bit in a previous column, but it deserves a second look in this context. Boasting an enormous produce section, a well-stocked bulk area, shelves of freshly baked bread and fantastic butchers and fishmongers, Berkeley Bowl is the perfect place to begin one's culinary adventures. It gets a bad rap for being expensive, but it can be one of the most cost-effective markets if you just stay away from their packaged goods. As you will see if you keep reading, it's easy to make Berkeley Bowl seem super cheap.

So what to cook? Many people find this question daunting, but discovering the best answer is what cooking is all about. There really is no right or wrong here, and the experience is all about the process. Creativity is a bit undervalued at Berkeley: Take a break from churning out cookie cutter papers or memorizing molecules, and make yourself a great lunch. Be innovative. You're only cooking for yourself, so there's no need to worry about impressing a guest. If you can have fun, embrace risk, and take your meal seriously all at once, the final result is bound to be impressive.

If you haven't already left for Berkeley Bowl, we've put together a simple menu to get your brain churning. It includes three meals-a breakfast, a lunch and a dinner-for one person to enjoy over the course of a day. Oh, and did we mention that it's really cheap? The whole day cost us less than $10.00. And these recipes are by no means set in stone.

We would love it if you watched our slideshow and thought to yourself, "I should make that sandwich, but with shrimp!"

Breakfast: $2.37

Grapefruit: 49 cents

Green Onions: 39 cents

Eggs: 99 cents

Spinach: 50 cents

Lunch: $3.75

Semifreddi's Ciabatta Loaf: 69 cents

Mint: 99 cents

Sweet Potato: 53 cents

Ground Lamb: $1.54

Dinner: $3.71

Cod: $1.74

Lemon: 13 cents

Onion: 20 cents

Chervil: 99 cents

Couscous: 65 cents

TOTAL: $9.83

P.S. You should have three eggs, some mint and a bit of lemon left over. If you can figure out how to make a dessert out of that, e-mail us!


Ask your 3 a.m. hook-up for a milkshake with Maria and Graham at [email protected]

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