February 17, 2019

Overseas and Off-Campus Programs Blog

Cooking with Confidence

Author Name

Katie Varness

Author Program

Ireland: Social Sciences

Program Semester and Year

Spring 2019

Student Major

Psychology/Political Science

This semester I was thrown into a new country, with students I do not know well, meeting people who have an accent I do not understand, and yet the hardest adjustment for me was cooking for myself. I fortunately grew up with a mother who loved to cook. Her recipes are unmatched. I watched with wonder from my kitchen counter as she made traditional Japanese dishes, homemade pizzas, and everything in between. I always wanted to cook for myself, but the most I could really do was make waffles from a box mix.

In the first week, I ventured into the local grocery store. Scared out of my mind, I went prepared with a small list of items I thought I needed, things like yogurt, bread and apples, and proceeded down the long, intimidating aisles. I ended up with items like rice, pasta and vegetables as well (all things to maintain a healthy diet).

Most nights I could get away with toast and eggs for dinner, but one night I was craving pasta. I had the noodles and the sauce, ready to cook a real meal. I started up the stove and boiled water. Once the water was boiling, I add the noodles. Logistically I was confused, the water kept boiling over and I had no idea how long the noodles had been cooking for. My friends came to the rescue and simply turned the burner down.

I have a couple of horror stories from cooking so far, including buying a grapefruit and thinking it was an orange. But as I became more comfortable in the kitchen, I began to experiment more. Vegetables have never been my favorite food, but I wanted to be adventurous. I bought brussels sprouts and pan fried them (a style I learned from my mom). I added olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. This was the first meal I made with some sort of confidence.

This semester has been trying for me. The new city is scary and making new friends is hard. But by learning how to cook for myself, I gained a new found confidence that can translate into other aspects of my life. I find little victories in flipping eggs over without breaking the yoke or using sesame oil in a meal. I trust myself to stay fed and I am proud to say I can now properly make myself a well-rounded meal.

It is crazy what a little pasta and grapefruit can do.