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8 FEATURE 6 Off-campus students learn kitchen skills MAY

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2014

by ANNA ZHENG Staff Reporter

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hen students leave campus, they also leave the convenience and expense of a meal plan behind. For some students who already enjoy cooking, living off campus gives them a reason to cook, but for students who do not have a knack for it just yet, Whitman offers students a variety of opportunities to refine their culinary skills, such as the Life Skills program and student-run classes. Life Skills classes at Whitman are designed to help students who may have some trouble cooking and adjusting to life off campus. This program, which was founded in 2011, has grown to offer three to six classes each week. These classes include sessions on cooking, but also cover things like first aid kits, bike repair and basic plumbing. “The purpose of Life Skills is twofold,” said Assistant Director of Student Activities and Life Skills Program Coordinator Katharine Curles in an email. “One, to fill in the void of hands-on learning, and two, to partner staff and community members with students to share their passions.” The classes cover a wide range of topics. “This year we have done [classes on] investment banking, cookie making, conscious consumer[ism], budgeting and even how to tie a bow tie with George Bridges,” said Curles. According to Curles, the majority of classes, particularly food-based ones, tend to fill up within 24 hours. Sophomore Phuong Le took a Life Skills cooking class in a previous year. She learned how to use a baking oven by making a walnut mocha torte. “Interestingly, before [the class], I had no idea how to use a baking oven because my home in Vietnam did not have one,” Le said. “There was no need for it .... So the Life Skills cooking class was the

first time I had ever baked a cake, and it turned out really well.” After taking a class, Le felt motivated to try new recipes. Her positive experience encouraged her to take up cooking, which led to better budgeting skills. “Being able to cook saved me a lot of money while giving me more autonomy in making what I want to eat,” Le said. “Being able to both cook different things and cook under time constraints has made my decision to live offcampus next year a no-brainer.” Sophomores Godwin Wang and Kangqiao Liao also started a Chinese cooking class this year, separate from the Life Skills program, hoping to give students and themselves more variety in foods. Both are international students who felt their Chinese cooking skills would give students an opportunity to learn more about the culinary arts behind Chinese food. They also saw the classes as a way for to them to refine their own skills. In their class, the two teach students what to pay attention to when cutting, flavoring and cooking Chinese food. For one class, they taught students how to make assorted pan-fried noodles. “We heard from a lot of students who are living off campus,” Wang said. “They said they [were] very interested in the Asian cuisine and cooking skills .... I think it’s a good chance to meet new people and also get practice [in cooking].” Wang and Liao also wanted to show students what authentic Chinese food tastes like. “Most of [American-Chinese restaurants’] dishes are not very authentic,” Wang said. “To provide authentic Chinese cooking skills is another goal for the class.” According to Wang, the students’ responses to the classes have been very positive. “They love the class,” Wang said. “Every time, we have a lot of students come in, but they are not the same group of students. I think everyone wants to have a chance to try.”

Phuong Le ‘17 (above) learns new cooking techniques at the GAC from the Life Skills courses offered by Whitman. Photo by Felt

Senior Phoebe Horvath’s love of cooking came from her mother, who taught her how to cook. Horvath has now been off the Whitman meal plan for five semesters. She said she enjoyed the convenience of the dining hall, mainly for its wide selection of food, but she only found time to bake. But now she has the freedom to cook her meals and said she enjoys the freedom of it. “By cooking my own food, I can just make delicious things I enjoy eating,” Horvath said. “It’s so relaxing to be able to take time out of my day and to cook food and be able to create something, especially being creative and trying new things.” While Horvath considers cooking a leisure activity, she said

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she still learns life skills in the process. She said she encourages scheduling times for meals during the day and allocating a specific amount of money to groceries. “Figuring out a budg-

et and figuring out what’s best for you, [whether it’s] going grocery shopping once a week,” Horvath said. “Make sure you have enough food. I think a lot of people are intimidated. Start simple.”

Student body divided by dining hall preferences by BEN CALDWELL Staff Reporter

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he debate about which dining hall is best is always on, particularly among firstyears on campus. It’s not uncommon to hear arguments around campus about which dining halls have the best food, best seating, best atmosphere and best service—sometimes involving vehement attacks on one dining hall. Anyone who has lived in Jewett Hall, Lyman Hall or Prentiss Hall knows that residents take quite a bit of pride in their respective dining halls. But not everyone stands where you might expect them to on the issue. Junior Aanand Sharma, a resident assistant in Anderson, stressed that all of the dining halls provide good food, but says his preferences have changed over time. “As of recently, I have preferred Jewett Dining Hall better. My opinion has changed since last semester. I used to really like Prentiss, but the quality of the food can be so variable from day to day that it’s becoming unreliable for me. The food is still great, but I feel like Jewett is more reliable—I know I can go to Jewett if I want a decent meal,” said Sharma. Of course, many disagree, and some of Prentiss’s biggest fans live the farthest from it. Junior Edward Daschle lives in North Hall but prefers Prentiss even though it is farther from his residence hall than any of the other options. “I prefer Prentiss. In general it feels like the food is better. Also Prentiss has much nicer seating than Jewett does, and it just seems like it’s a better structured dining hall overall than Jewett,” said Daschle. First-year Michelle Christy, a Jewett resident, is of the exact opposite opinion. “I really like how Jewett has a more flexible setup where you can move things around and it’s not so dependent on the layout of tables, and you can eat with as many people as you want if you crowd around. Because of Prentiss’s booths, it’s a set number of people ... you might be able to squeeze eight people in a booth, but it’s not like Jewett where you can just keep adding more people into a long table. I really like that for eating with friends and interactions,” said Christy. In contrast, Daschle identified the booths as one of his favorite things at Prentiss. “There are more comfortable chairs and they have the booths at Prentiss, which is nice,” said Daschle. “It’s not just like being in a classroom, because that’s what Jewett feels like: a classroom with very long tables. And food.” Many students seem convinced the food is different between the two major dining halls, yet most students interviewed were unable to determine any factor that made the food in one hall totally superior to the others. Dennis Young, a first-year living in Anderson, concluded it was more of a mixed bag, with each hall doing some things better than others. “I prefer Prentiss for lunch and Jewett for dinner ... I think the food is generally better at

those times in the specified dining halls because Prentiss dinner is always pizza, and it gets very stale very quickly,” said Young. Christy also mentioned the perpetual presence of pizza on the menu as a disadvantage for Prentiss, adding that she thinks Jewett’s food has more variety in taste and origin. “With Jewett there’s more diversity in the countries that the food comes from,” said Christy. But there’s another kind of diversity that Jewett’s menu is definitely lacking, according to firstyear Gillian Gray, who lives in Jewett but prefers the meal options in Prentiss. Though Jewett is more convenient for her because it’s so close, Gray is often frustrated because Jewett seldom labels the different meals as vegetarian, vegan or containing animal products. “Yesterday I went in and literally nothing had any marking, so I had to ask ... And fairly often they don’t have anything I can eat, so I eat salad ... I could go to Prentiss ... but Prentiss is crowded, really crowded,” said Gray. Crowding is another issue many students feel affects their experience in the dining halls, especially Prentiss on the weekends. Rosie Sherman, also a firstyear, feels the tightly spaced tables and booths at Prentiss create an uncomfortable atmosphere. “I would say I do not generally like dining halls, but almost always Prentiss makes me feel a lot of anxiety so I don’t like being there because the layout is just somewhat more stressful than Jewett ... But as far as general atmosphere, Lyman wins over all of them because it’s quiet and calm, and you can sit on couches if you want to,” said Sherman. A number of residents from both Jewett and Prentiss agree, Lyman is the most pleasant eating experience. First-year Prentiss resident Lauren Rekhelman says she eats at Lyman sometimes just because it’s quieter. “It’s nice that Lyman is selfserve and open later than the other dining halls,” she added. Lyman has several advantages over its competitors: couches to eat on, the self-service system and its quiet atmosphere. “[Lyman] just feels a lot better and more homey than Jewett, where it’s large and you feel lost. Lyman is small and you can get to know people,” said firstyear Mackenzie Cummings. There are, of course, pros and cons to each dining hall. “None of them are perfect,” said Gray. Each dining hall has qualities that set it apart, and each has loyal supporters claiming their dining hall is best, but according to Sharma, the rivalry between residence halls is a campus myth. People don’t necessarily eat in the dining hall they live closest to. “I don’t think there’s a social divide. Simply because of the fact that students have to eat at Prentiss on the weekends, there is always a little bit of overlap. I’m willing to eat at Jewett as often as I am willing to eat at Prentiss, and I think that’s the case for many of my friends,” he said.


Spring 2014 Issue 13 - Feature Section