Kathryn's Kitchen

Kristina Wyman's picture
Kathryn Severance

Here is my best advice about bonding with those whom you live with. Sharing food, especially in a sit-down, organized meal together at your apartment (or, perhaps, in your dorm room with Easy Mac) is the most excellent way to build relationships. It brings people together. It is a form of art. Everyone can bring something for the meal. Shoutout to my roomates, juniors Tammy Turner and Marielena Layuno, who have taken part in my own cooking “bonding sessions” for about a month or so. We sit down to enjoy dinner together on Wednesday nights, though we are all busy (Provoc, R.A., Fulbright award nominees Reach Out Center to name a few) full-time students who work, we still find time to cook and share a meal together during the week.

Here’s one way to divide and conquer: with dinner, on a night when everyone has a little bit of time to bond and cook together. It is an excellent way to learn how to effectively communicate together, without having to make it seem overly serious or boring.

First, go to the grocery store on a Sunday, when everyone is free. One person should buy the frozen eggplant patties and the basil. One great tip for something useful like basil is to try buying a basil plant (like my roommates and I have) at Walmart or Price Chopper; it’s a lot of fun to grow it yourself and it’s far cheaper than always buying it fresh. Another person can buy the package of penne pasta (try Big Lots wheat penne for $1) and the pasta sauce (try Dollar Tree’s small jars for $1). The spinach and shredded (not powdered) parmesan cheese can be bought by another person.

Second, get out one eggplant patty for each person who will be eating (some of them are small, so you might need to use two) and put them on a foil-covered cookie sheet. Cover each patty with a half cup of pasta sauce. It should cover most of the patty. Next, wash and rip up a few leaves of basil and sprinkle these over the sauce-covered patties. Now, put two tablespoons of the cheese on top. After this, take a few leaves of spinach and rip them into strips. Arrange them on top of the cheese as you like. I like to make a little flower with them. Put the patties in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes. After you put the eggplant into the oven, cook your pasta according to the directions on the package. It will likely need to cook for about 8 to 10 minutes. Remember to have someone stir it as it cooks.

The pasta and eggplant patties should finish around roughly the same time. Leave the eggplant out to cool as you strain the pasta. Use the microwave to heat up the sauce in the uncovered jar (only as long as it is a glass jar). To protect your microwave from getting splattered with sauce, use a small piece of paper towel over the top of the jar.

For serving the meal, have your roommates serve themselves 1 1/2 cups of pasta. They should then put no more than 1 cup of sauce over the pasta. After this, they can use a spatula to take one eggplant patty and place it on the sauce-covered pasta.

Always remember to discuss any dietary restrictions or food allergies with your roommates before cooking together. It is most helpful to have a list of all of your roommates’ food allergies in a place where everyone can see it when you are cooking and planning meals together.

In my apartment, we have a wipe-off calendar in the kitchen with a notes section that we use to list all food allergies. Try not to make something that one roommate absolutely cannot eat because of dietary restrictions. Lactose-intolerant roommates can have their eggplant without the cheese. Check the box to see if the eggplant patties are gluten-free if you or your roommates have gluten allergies.

Be sure that the work is divided up equally. A few roommates can do the cooking, while one roommate sets the table and another roommate can collect the dishes and load them into the dishwasher after the meal is over. Balance is a very good thing in shared living spaces. Happy cooking, happy bonding and happy eating.

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