When Jackie Stone decided to become a vegetarian at the tender age of 12, she didn’t have a lot of cooking experience to rely on.
“My first year or so [as a vegetarian], I lived off of cereal, quesadillas and veggie burgers,” she said.
After years of practice, Stone gradually increased her repertoire of recipes, looking for new kinds of vegetables and protein substitutes that could be incorporated into healthy, easy-to-make meals. Stone not only adapted the vegetarian lifestyle, but she fell in love with cooking.
It was this culinary interest that brought Stone to the Cooking Club booth at last year’s Activities Fair, where she immediately signed up.
A relatively new organization on campus with a year under its belt, Cooking Club, according to their SPAC profile, strives to “promote an acute gustatory sense, inspire others to actively cook for themselves, and to develop a friendly community and network” through events designed to share and socialize.
Once a month, members arrange a club potluck, where everybody – vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike – is encouraged to bring a dish for others to try, as well as the accompanying recipe.
Often, these potlucks are themed – some of last year’s more popular ideas included “healthy food” and “holiday treat” themed events. The variety of foods offered (usually about 10 dishes) allows students an opportunity to sample anything that fits their diet of choice.
“We try to take a lot of dietary concerns into consideration, and every event has some kind of vegan or vegetarian option,” said Stone.
Overall, potlucks are informal, relaxed affairs where people can enjoy each other’s company.
“Cooking Club is about a group of friends sharing recipes and cooking for one another,” said Rudy Negrete, a junior landscape architecture major.
Cooking nights, which are also often themed, are another popular event. They are usually held off-campus in members‘ apartments, and involve working as a team to buy ingredients, follow a recipe, and prepare a group meal. These meals have ranged from Italian dishes and desserts to Valentine’s Day truffles and everything in between.
Last year’s most famous event – Japanese Night – drew the attention of AGTV, which covered the occasion on campus television. Served buffet style, the menu for the night boasted mixed tempura, katsu, assorted dumplings, miso soup and, of course, sushi.
“Every member took part,” said Christy Li, a senior communication major who helped found the club and is currently its president.
Another popular event was the Easter Egg Hunt, where members gave the spring tradition a chef’s twist.
“We were divided into teams, and each team had a different egg color to look for,” explained Stone. “Each team had to find five eggs, and each egg had a fifth of the recipe in it.“
The team that found their eggs and organized their recipe first, won the contest.
Fun and games aside, Cooking Club is serious about its agenda in the coming months.
“Learning how to cook is a survival skill,” Li said. “When college students gain the ‘freshman 15,‘ it’s often because they don’t know how to take care of themselves. Cooking gives you the satisfaction that you made [food] yourself … if you have a good friend, or a boyfriend or girlfriend, they feel extra special because they know you took the time to [prepare the meal].“
With a turnout of nearly 60 students at their first meeting of the year, Cooking Club plans to use a larger membership base to increase the variety of activities in the upcoming months, including a demonstration table at the farmers market to help publicize the club and its mission.
Upcoming meetings, which are to be held twice a month, will focus on cooking 101, with tips and short recipe demonstrations (this week’s meeting will feature how to cook with eggs). In addition, each meeting is an opportunity for members to bring their own ideas for events and recipes to the table.
“It’s an ongoing learning process, and we really want new members‘ input,” added Li.
For more information on Cooking Club, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
ANDRE LEE can be reached at email@example.com.