Tuesday, September 16, 2014

College Food Adventure

In college, a lot of big decisions tumble in your way. Classes to take, majors to pursue and the all-important question, "Do I really have to read that 50 pages of Linguistics for tomorrow?" (Clue: the answer is yes). For me, though, another question popped up: Do I want to eat at the cafeteria?

For most, this isn't even an option. At Point Loma Nazarene University, if you sleep on campus, you eat on campus too. Last year, I had my dietary bumps, but overall the caf and I were buds

And Kendall and I were food allergy caf buds!

But then, over the summer, it all changed. The chefs who'd become my buddies in food and life left and a new dining manager joined the party. No more "special meals." No more gluten free fridge.

 I've met with the dining manager several times and he has big dreams for the caf, such as gluten free students being able to walk in and order on the spot from a variety of safe options. I have no doubt that, in time, it will become a reality

Pretty...but not so filling.

But as days became weeks with only lettuce and chicken as my cafeteria meals, I didn't have time to wait. Or weight to lose. So, even though I love the cafeteria staff and the idea of not having to make all my meals, I finally snipped the umbilical chord. Starting today, I'm responsible for all my own meals. Gulp

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't scared. I know how to cook, but I'm no culinary Michelangelo. I have time, but I don't want cooking to become another part-time job. I didn't like the cafeteria foods or worrying over whether they'd have something for me to eat (trust me, there were nights they didn't), but I liked brandishing my silverware with friends at my side. 

Food and these faces? The perfect combo!

But, as I woke up this morning free of frets over when I'd go to the caf, what they'd have for me to eat and how long I would need to wait, I knew I made the right choice. No matter the challenges ahead, I can't help but feel like this is a blessing in disguise.

I see blessings in the intensification of my previous goal of growing some of my own food. I gave a sneak peak of my foray into the gardening club on my last post. Zeke the Zuc ring any bells? This year I have my own plot and just planted my first rows of crops. In a few weeks (and months) time, baby beets, radishes and rainbow chard will be popping out of the dirt. To me, there's nothing more magical than the process of transforming a seed into an edible delicacy. We'll soon find out if I have the right to call myself a wizard

So CUTE! (The strawberry!) 

The zucchini I scored weeks ago is still barely alive and has enlivened too many meals to count! Two days ago, I left the garden spotted with dirt but loaded down with a huge bag of unclaimed goodies. The rainbow chard and kale will decorate my dinner tonight. And the mini strawberries? The largest only matched the size of my pinky, but they tasted sweeter than candy. Sure, I won't be able to live off the earth, but any dollar saved at the grocery store goes towards another meal

I also see blessings in my roommate Bri, who is as big of a health foodie as I am. I walked into our dorm room yesterday, my mind still on the philosophy notes I was memorizing, and stared at the odd mixture overflowing from her Nutribullet. Add zucchini, coconut meat, mint, and cacao powder together and what do you get?

Diving into chocolate with the roomie!

Another crazily delicious and healthy dessert recipe from Chocolate Covered Katie! A couple hours in the freezer later and we dove into a chocolate coconut cream pie for our afternoon snack. Our next planned adventure? Mini eggplant pizzas. I - and my stomach - can't wait. 

Blessings are even sprinkled in every meal that I throw together for the first time and can't stop eating! Two days ago, it was doing the dinner dance with Mahi Mahi. Last night, heaven landed on my plate in the form of egg-free, dairy-free, gluten-free salmon patties. There's no better motivation to be a mad scientist in the kitchen than a stocked fridge and empty stomach!

Not the prettiest, but so delicious!

Despite the help from the garden, an awesome roommates and access to my true loves of Chipotle and Whole Foods, cooking all my own food won't be easy. Time is a college commodity and shopping, prepping and cooking will be doing a knock-down-drag-out fight over mine.

But you know what? The whole point of college is to grow, and jumping off the meal plan will be a major step. After all, nothing screams "grown up" more to me than managing a food budget and cooking after a long day at "work." And there's no faster way to make friends or earn a dorm nickname (I'm presently "granola girl" after I flooded the whole building with the scent of homemade granola) than hanging out near the fridge!

Me, aka "Granola Girl"

Big decisions are scary, always riddled with "what ifs," "buts" and "I don't know's." What if this is the best choice of my sophomore year? Maybe it'll just be a pain in the butt. I don't know. (Got to throw a little writing irony in here!). Until I do know, though, I'm going to rock my cooking mitts with pride. Let the adventure begin! 



What dietary accommodations, if any, did you receive in college? Do you cook most of your meals? Comment below! 




6 comments:

  1. Congratulations Casey on taking such a responsible and big step! As a celiac myself and preventive medicine physician, I applaud your hard work and ability to stick with a healthy, safe plan. I know it is not always easy!
    Thanks for inspiring others as well!
    Warmly,
    Jennifer

    Dr. Jennifer L. Weinberg, MD, MPH, MBE
    Preventive Medicine Physician
    Lifestyle and Wellness Consultant
    Author of The Whole Cure  http://amzn.to/1wqppEV
    AADP Certified Holistic Health Coach
    www.JenniferWeinbergMD.com
    Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JenniferWeinbergMD

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    1. Thanks Jennifer for the paise and for your work as a physician. I'm definitely not a bio person, so I totally respect those who are! Have a great weekend!

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  2. Casey,

    I'm so sorry to hear that it's become more challenging this year, and your buds are gone. :( I worked for my college's caf for a little bit, and our staff changed around quite a bit too.

    Anyway, I went off my meal plan and lived in the dorms still. It was totally manageable (with an extra minifridge up in my room). I tended to only cook once a week and in bulk. We had one kitchen in my dorm, so once I got it, I would set myself up in there for awhile. I would cover all the counters with plastic table cloth (because even my best cleaning messes wouldn't have made the dorm kitchenette clean). I even had my own plastic bin I would put in the sink when I washed my dishes. It all worked out okay, but I only did it for a little over a semester.

    I love how you have a positive outlook, and I cannot wait to hear about how you overcome this new obstacle throughout the rest of the school year!

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    1. Glad to hear I'm not alone in the cooking college dilemma. Always an adventure, but I'm finally getting the hang of it (sort of). Stay amazing and thanks for the tips! :)

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  3. Oh my! You really took the plunge and took the wheels when it comes to your nutrition. I know too well how demanding college life can be, and adding another responsibility on top of that really looks daunting. I can see that you've started on the path to overcoming that hurdle, though. You've got the right plan with your self-sufficiency goals, and all it needs is the backing-up of spirit and attitude. Anyway, thank you for sharing your adventures with us! I hope you're having a nice fall.

    Deborah Williams @ Choice Career College

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    1. Thanks Deborah. It's a challenge, but, like everything, I'm making it work. My fall is awesome! Hope yours is treating you well! :)

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