I stayed in Ithaca for all of Spring Break. A few other friends, who are also international students, also stayed. The primary concern for undergraduates who stay over breaks is food. All the dining halls and most BRB eateries are closed. Most students survive the breaks by stocking up on ready-to-eat/microwaveable food. Fortunately, I live in a co-op. So I always have access to a full kitchen (with all the utensils I might need) and staple food items like oil,flour,grain,pasta salt, spices, milk ,onions, potatoes.. (it’s a long list). With most basic ingredients readily available, I only had to buy some vegetables and special ingredients for particular recipes.
Since I had the time and resources to make elaborate dinners, a few friends and I made our own meals during break. Each meal took us a few hours to make, consume and clean up. But it was absolutely worth it!
Eggs, fruit salads and soups were as complex as our brunches were. We were too hungry to really cook in the mornings.
Having bought paneer from the Indian store in collegetown, we struggled to cook it. Once we simply fried and ate them, another time, we tried adding them to a rice dish (which ended in a disaster and hence no photos of it). But finally, we created this dish with tomato sauce which was meant for pasta. I tried really hard to mask the flavor of basil and other italian seasoning with garam masala and cumin!
A can of olives, a jar of seasoned tomato sauce, and some mushrooms found in my house’s pantry warranted this delicious, free meal.
We found some red thai curry paste in the pantry. So we bought some frozen vegetables, some coconut milk and paid a lot for a handful of bell peppers and baby corn at the salad bar in Atrium Cafe. The result was delicious. That evening, I also cooked the rice perfectly and was finally declared a true South Indian.
Other nights, we made sweet potato and spinach quesadillas and also resorted to some ready-to-eat meals a couple times. At one point, I had the surprising realization that we had cooked Thai, Italian,Mexican and Indian food over the course of a few days. I guess that’s how you know that you live in the U.S. – by the ridiculous variety of cuisines in regular meals.
I also developed a great appreciation for the people who cook my meals. At home, my mother cooked all three meals, every day, from scratch, in addition to having a full time job. I have come to the belief that she must have superpowers, because cooking two meals for myself left barely enough time for other activities (like trying to go the gym, compelling a friend to teach me to play the ukulele and sleeping 10 hours a day). So I’m glad that I can get my dinner tonight at a dining hall, although I did really enjoy cooking during the break.