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Zoom With UCSB Cook

It is a running joke that most college students cannot cook. This is especially true if you just leaped fresh out of your parents’ nest, as cooking feels like a secondhand priority.

However, UC Santa Barbara Health & Wellness is offering UCSB Cooks: Intro to the Kitchen, a six-week series of free cooking classes that is great for students who are seeking to improve their home-cooked meals. From grocery shopping to feasting, students learn valuable kitchen skills such as knife techniques, food waste reduction tips and kitchen safety.

Due to the pandemic, Health & Wellness modified this course to accommodate safety concerns.

The Friday before my first cooking class, my beau and I biked to the Isla Vista Food Cooperative, where Health & Wellness advocates were handing out groceries and cooking supplies for the event. For the students who were not in I.V., the advocates had emailed them grocery gift cards. Despite the lingering heat, the transaction was smooth. The advocates wore masks and gloves, giving us a shopping list, bag of produce and gift card to purchase items they could not buy. We signed off on the exchange with sanitized pens.

For two classes a week, Mallory Russell, a health education generalist with Health & Wellness, leads a group of students through the pre-selected recipes they sent two weeks in advance, such as teriyaki stir fry, creamy lemon pasta and cauliflower curry. All the recipes are plant-based, with suggestions for flexible twists.

The Southwest salad we made last Monday was colorful, with chopped romaine and iceberg lettuce, canned corn, black beans, diced tomatoes and quinoa cooked according to package instructions. The optional section suggested adding other toppings like cheese, tempeh, avocado or tortilla strips.

One of the goals of this series was to teach a basic recipe that is full of versatility. I chopped a wrinkly bell pepper and sprinkled in leftover lemon zest, and my beau added Fuji apple chunks. The salad dressing, a lemon vinaigrette — 1:1 ratio of lemon juice and olive oil — was quite bland, so I used some of the Trader Joe’s Carrot Ginger Miso Salad Dressing in my fridge.

This cooking class offered a pleasant community in which to dissolve the exhaustion that had grown from having back-to-back meetings. We ate our meals together as a virtual class. Additionally, I made about 10 servings of the Southwest salad and shared it with my housemates. We loved the various textures: the crunchiness from the lettuce, the soft sweetness from the corn and the familiar grainy texture of black beans. Recipes like this — wealthy in color and flavor — quench my plant-based soul. Perhaps the newfound deliciousness was worth the extra Zoom meeting.

If you are interested, look out for UCSB Cooks applications in your emails next quarter, or if you cannot wait, check out the other Food Nutrition & Basic Skills programs being offered this quarter!

Celine Pun thinks real food is refreshing after days of overnight oats and instant ramen from the A.S. Food Bank.

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