Food for thought (in my own Crock-pot)

Are college students spoon fed on the $2,000-per-semester meal plan missing out on the opportunity to learn an important life skill?

Another year underway! A time of seeing old friends, meeting new ones and cooking delicious college foods like pasta and burritos. Cooking together is a fantastic bonding experience, too.

Because I’m an elitist, I regard cooking as an intricate art form of finesse and experience that takes years of trial and error to master. Seriously, you’d be surprised how much skill it takes to throw a hodgepodge of edible things into a frying pan. Or, rather, you’d be surprised how often I fail at it.

Lucky for everyone, I recently received an item sure to revolutionize my cooking: a crock-pot. Every college student should have one. Letting food cook while one spends the day in class saves time and makes for an excellent dinner. It’s easy, simple and makes food tastes like food, which is a step up from many staples in a college diet. I feel like I’ve become an expert chef, ranking myself somewhere between Emeril and June Cleaver in the cooking craft.

Alas, many students won’t experience the joys of cooking for themselves anytime soon. In fact, a large amount of students are stuck paying a huge fee every year to be spoon fed food from our campus food services. I don’t necessarily have a problem with the idea. Many freshmen would undoubtedly starve without regular meals, but it’s the lack of any other options that bothers me, along with the fact that freshmen are routinely equated with incompetence.

The real world is looming close by, and the sooner basic skills like cooking are utilized, the better. Cooking is a life skill that everybody must learn eventually. Why wait until late in college?

This should be about options. If students coming to college don’t feel they are ready to deal with the responsibility of feeding themselves, then have them sign on the dotted line and eat at the cafeteria all year. But for those who are ready now, why deprive them of the opportunity? There’s no gain for anyone.

Linfield is preparing students for life after college, and life after college doesn’t include a cafeteria. In real life, those who can’t adapt and survive are cut out, not catered to. College should encourage students to step up and take care of themselves, not lazily have somebody else take care of them. It’s insulting to be treated as a child when one is trying to be adult.

The costs also bother me. See, a meal plan costs $2,000 per semester. That is unnecessarily expensive for disappointing food because it’s made in bulk. It’s pricey for food we often won’t eat. It’s just plain expensive. Do you think anyone with a kitchen spends $2,000 to feed themselves every three months?

I’m trying to imagine how much delicious food my roommate and I could buy with $4,000 every semester. I don’t think I could eat that much. I doubt four football players could eat that much.

And this is food I’d enjoy, mind you. Not food produced for efficiency.

Well maybe I’ll just cook for myself and not worry too much about it. I’d like to think part of being an adult is dealing with impractical systems and questionable, expensive food. I guess things could be a lot worse.

The meal plan does have some benefits. (I’m thinking of you, corndog day.) Still, I’d rather learn through trial and error than be spoon fed meals because people are afraid I might fail at cooking. That would be my own fault. It will be for the rest of my life, anyway.

Matt Olson
Columnist Matt Olson can be reached at

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