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Can you cook without your ‘mama’?

By ZahraaK 09 Oct 2018

Have you arrived at university with no idea of what to do in the kitchen? Do not fear, you're not alone. In fact, you'll find lots of people learn to cook properly in their first or second year.

In this article Senior Social Rep and London College of Communication student Zahraa shares how she learned to cook at university after never having learned at home.

Moving away from home is one achievement, but surviving away from home is a totally different ballgame. I don’t know about you, but when I was home, cooking my own meals was certainly not at the top of my priority list. Sure I’d watch my mum cook every so often, cut an onion here or there, but cook/prep 3 meals a day was not something I’d done in my lifetime. 

It took a while to get into cooking. From what I remember I think I tried to live the first few months purely off ready-made salads, takeout’s, anything easy and quick. It wasn’t sustainable in the long run and what I came to realize, as cheesy as it may sound, is that our bodies are our temples. I then knew I could be lazy no longer, I had to learn to cook with the foundations my mum gave me and nurture my body the way it should be. 

I came from a totally ‘foodie’ family to say the least, and although I didn’t have the most experience in cooking all my home dishes, I wasn’t prepared to say goodbye to them. I started on the basics, which for me was rice. I burnt the rice. Embarrassing? Slightly, but we’ve all got to start somewhere. Slowly but surely I started to master the basics; I could cook fluffy rice, sticky rice, brown rice, I could cook salmon, chicken, Quorn, you name it I was doing it. I began to love cooking and became a lot more adventurous with my flavors and spices. 

With the basics under my belt, ' asked my mum for our home recipes as I think it’s something you need when you’re so far away from what you’ve always known. I was going to cook without my ‘mama’, and I was going to make it my mission to do it better. I started making curries, pasta dishes, Portuguese style chicken, sticky rice, sesame chicken and vegetables, the works!   

Of course, everyone has their own specific dietary needs, there are vegans, vegetarians, pescatarians, Muslims who can only eat halal meat, gluten-free diets, etc. The list could go on, but my point is simple: Know what you can have and fuel your body with all the nutrients it needs. If you’re vegan I’d invest in some B12 tablets and look to make sure the healthy fats are in your diet, if you’re vegetarian your main concern should be protein (lentils, beans, tofu and nuts). It sounds like a lot to consider, but honestly, it’s worth it in the end. Through cooking persistently I’ve developed a palette, and I feel educated on what goes into my body, as I’m the one putting it there.

I can now, hand on my heart say I’m confident and happy to cook without my ‘mama’, and what I’ve learnt, having to fend for myself is that balance is key. When you’re parents say everything in moderation, and you moan as a kid that you want more chocolate, you’ll soon come to realize that you’re body doesn’t want anymore. Don’t get me wrong, I do understand it; takeaways are deceptively easy, but you have to realize it would be cheaper to cook a meal than get a takeaway. Plus, cooking can be fun! Bring a bit of curiosity into what you’re eating and preparing for yourself, and you’ll find it to be quite rewarding.

For more advice from fellow students, check out our Wellbeing tab.