It is Thursday, November 23rd. Or well, it is as I’m writing this. Shush. At home my family will be working their way through Thanksgiving dinner, and then the ensuing food comas, and then the weeklong marathon of leftover turkey, mashed potatoes, and cranberry sauce.
Sadly, like a lot of students at MIT, I’m not at home for this Thanksgiving. I won’t be eating my aunty’s pumpkin crunch desserts or my grandpa’s kalua turkey, I won’t be seeing the little cousins who aren’t quite so little anymore, and most importantly I won’t be hanging out with my family in person :((
For those of us still on campus, however, we do have two things to help us cope—✨the power of friendship✨ and ✨the power of cook-for-yourself dorms✨! In fact, Burton-Conner, one of the aforementioned cook-for-yourself dorms! actually has some pretty amazing facilities for cooking. Each suite has its own kitchen, and the dorm’s big shared “TV Lounge” has its own massive kitchen as well. Kitchens + hungry college students + staying up way too late = everything from cookies to pancakes to tapioca pudding.
But those are all just little things. Let’s talk about the real cooking equation: kitchens + hungry college students + a desire to pretend at adulting = overly ambitious attempts to cook massive group meals!
My friends and I are actually planning to do a big Friendsgiving cookfest on Sunday, when everyone is back on campus, but in honor of actual Thanksgiving, I thought I’d share one of our previous cooking adventures!
Part 1 – Acquire the Ingredients
There’s a bunch of benefits to going to college in a city, and one of them is the proximity of food! There’s a Trader Joe’s, Target, Whole Foods, Daily Table Grocery, and even an H-Mart all within a thirty minute walk from the dorms. And even better, MIT actually runs a shuttle to all these places every Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday!
So, on one Sunday in October, eight or so of my friends and I woke up at the crack of dawn to catch the shhh, it’s dawn to us shuttle to Trader Joe’s. We were sitting in the back of the amazingly warm shuttle when one of us realized—hey, we should probably make a list of ingredients!
But wait. We couldn’t do that yet. Because… uh… what even were we going to cook??
Actual Part 1 – What the heck are we cooking??
After much frantic Googling of “easy recipes to cook with friends,” we proceeded to ignore all the Internet’s suggestions and settled on the following quoted straight from our Discord chat itself :
dish 1: udon noodles thing
- udon noodles (hmart)
- eggs (12)
- dashi/chicken broth
- what is this? i do not know
dish 2: dumplings
- need some dumpling covering thing (hmart)
- more pork / lamb
- funny cabbage thing / leek / scallions?
In the end, we were too exhausted to bake the muffins. Instead we made them… well… like a month later LOL
- chocolate chips
- cocoa powder
Ok. Plan acquired!
Part 2 – Get in loser, we’re going shopping!! 🛍️
There is nothing that makes me feel more adult-ish than putting actual raw ingredients into a shopping basket at the grocery store :D. It took all our combined brainpower to find everything without running someone over with a shopping cart, but eventually we’d collected almost all of our supplies.
After those forty minutes at Trader Joe’s, we sent half the group back to campus with the cold/frozen ingredients while the rest of us got off the shuttle early to take on H-Mart and Target! There, two of the least dumpling-savvy of us were tasked with finding “some dumpling covering thing” and “funny cabbage thing / leek / scallions?” at H-Mart (as well as some other more straightforward items). Needless to say… we had to send a lot of photos to figure out what to buy. And we still managed to get the wrong type of greens. Oops?
After the confusing H-Mart visit, we went to Target and bought 48 eggs. No I will not elaborate.
Then we walked back to campus! to be fair, we did have some of this already on hand 👍🏼
Part 3 – Collect the hardware
Burton-Conner’s big shared kitchen has a bunch of space, but it doesn’t have the actual tools you need to cook. Luckily, our suite kitchens have plenty of supplies to raid, so that’s exactly what we did (while forgetting literally everything and having to take >10 trips). But hey! Eventually we had two pans, a giant pot, a mini pot, three mixing bowls, a bunch of measuring cups, several plates, a bunch of utensils, and after much searching, 12 bowls to eat out of!
Part 4 – Let us cook!
Alright, finally! Cooking time!!
Our numbers had increased from eight to twelve, and with so many pairs of hands and so much counter space, we tried our best to parallelize the process. There was so much going on, but I did manage to get some (very poor quality) photos :D
Missing from these photos is half of our eggs exploding upon contact with hot water (good thing there were another 36 on hand), boiling 12 packets of udon all at the same time (and definitely overcooking it), and making an absolute mess of the kitchen in the process.
Nevertheless, I’m actually incredibly impressed by how much we were able to get done without setting anything on fire, I am being told at this very moment that someone was using the SHARP EDGE OF THE KNIFE to clean things off of their BARE HANDS. I WAS NOT AWARE OF THIS. , or accidentally ruining anything! More importantly, it wasn’t just a couple people with cooking experience doing most of the work—all of us were helped pretty much equally with everything. It may have taken us literally three hours, but we did it!
Part 5 – Omnomnomnom
There we are—a complete meal for twelve! Freshly made dumplings with pork & bok choy filling (amid other seasonings), as well as udon with more bok choy, soft-boiled eggs, caramelized onions, and seared pork.
And here I shall take the time to absolutely toot our own horn, because this meal tasted like the fresh tears of a newborn demigod. Absolutely amazing. 100/10. We ate half the dumplings before the udon was even finished, and I think I might’ve had more than three bowls of food… So yum.
Part 6 – Washing the dishes
And then we had to clean up. We washed the giant piles of dishes, scrubbed the stove of all the oil splatters, and wiped down all the counters. We hauled all our materials back up to our various suites, and organized the ingredients back into their little shelves.
But you know what? THAT WAS FUN TOO!!
Which is kinda wild to me, because at home I’m usually not the biggest fan of the process of cooking. It often feels like too much work for not that much benefit. But I think I’m realizing that, as fun as it is to just sit around with friends and make stupid jokes or build stupid Minecraft houses, doing the mundane tasks—grocery shopping, chopping vegetables, and even washing dishes—with other people is somehow even better. You come out of it filled with a sense of accomplishment, but more importantly, there’s so much open-ended space for more shenanigans :). There’s pointing out unusual foods at the grocery store, or figuring out weird alternatives to cooking hardware we don’t have, or gathering source material for more stupid jokes!
So, to everyone out there recovering from your family cookfests, I hope they went well. I hope your food was delicious, and your leftovers bountiful. Most of all, I hope you had just as great a time cooking with your people as we did. Happy Thanksgiving!!
- Burton-Conner, one of the aforementioned cook-for-yourself dorms! back to text ↑
- shhh, it’s dawn to us back to text ↑
- quoted straight from our Discord chat itself back to text ↑
- what is this? i do not know back to text ↑
- In the end, we were too exhausted to bake the muffins. Instead we made them… well… like a month later LOL back to text ↑
- to be fair, we did have some of this already on hand back to text ↑
- I am being told at this very moment that someone was using the SHARP EDGE OF THE KNIFE to clean things off of their BARE HANDS. I WAS NOT AWARE OF THIS. back to text ↑