A Guide to Your Very Own College Family Dinner

I think I speak for many of us at the U of R when I say we get bored of the typical Commons food. I’m thinking of Pacific Rim Bowls, or, as they’re known to some students and staff members (who will remain anonymous) Pacific Rim Job bowls. I’m talking about the pasta line, which usually includes a full 20 minutes of standing and staring off into the distance, just waiting till you can consume your mediocre meal. Then there is the grill line of redundancy; serving burgers, chicken sandwiches, grilled cheeses (where the cheese is never fully melted), and french fries, which I’ll admit I am a complete and utter sucker for. 


If you’re anything like me, you often miss and long for a good old fashioned home cooked meal. My friends and I most certainly have had this realization, so I decided it was time to utilize my lifelong cooking skills and employ a weekly Sunday “family” dinner.


At my home, Sunday family dinner has always been a fond tradition of mine. Every Sunday my loving, free spirited, unorthodox, and somewhat crazy family gathers together under one roof and embarks on an evening of over six hours of true family bonding. We cook remarkably delicious and gourmet meals, packed tightly together in one small kitchen while conversing and laughing over large glasses of wine. We always plan to eat by the socially acceptable dinner time of 6 P.M. but end up dining somewhere around of 9 o’clock. When we finally sit down to eat, further bonding ensues, both with one another and with our plates. This is what a Sunday family dinner is all about, bonding with our friends and family over a homecooked meal.


Now you may ask yourself, “As a college student, how can I cook an exquisite dinner for my friends to enjoy on a Sunday evening? First, you must address the fact that we as college students are generally poor, and food can be expensive. To save money, shop at places like Trader Joe’s, buy in bulk, and incorporate fresh produce, which is not only healthy but also extremely cheap. Secondly, as it turns out, cooking is quite easy once you do a little bit of research. Go online and look up some easy recipes, or log on to the Buzzfeed website Tasty and watch the easy to follow (and mesmerizing) recipe videos. It’s that easy!


Every Sunday before I decide what I would like to cook for my Redlands family, I like to check the weather. If it is forecasted as a rainy and cold day I tend to choose to cook meals that will warm your body and soul (one that will most likely will put you into a food coma). But if the day is predicted to be scorching hot, I like to cook a light and uplifting meal. I also always do a “mood check” before I select a dish. The mood I am in is a vital factor when selecting a meal to make, because isn’t food for the soul? After I’ve chosen the perfect recipe that matches both the weather and my mood of the day, it’s time to hit the grocery store, the plaza, and my friends kitchens in the brockton apartments, to gather my ingredients. First, I always check the plaza to see what basics ingredients are available, such as milk, butter, and maybe even a few vegetables if they look somewhat edible. Next I hit one of my most favorite grocery stores on earth, Trader Joe’s. And yes, I do have a list of favorite grocery stores, what can I say? I am a cooking nerd. After the delightful chaos that is Trader Joe’s on a Sunday, I stop by a few friends’ kitchens in Brockton and beg them to borrow spices. Once I’ve gathered all of my ingredients, I hit the kitchen, blast some feel good music, and start cooking.


You may be wondering, “Where on earth am I supposed to cook these meals?” Well, little did you know (or maybe you did know this already), each dorm has a kitchen! Although it may be extremely small and not the cleanest, it will most certainly do the job. As for cookware, at least one of your Community Assistants or Resident Directors will have a few basic pots, pans, and flavorful spices for you to borrow.


After a long five days of attending classes, tackling mountains of schoolwork, using my brain to it’s full capacity, it’s hard to imagine how I will be able to make it through the upcoming week. But when I step into the kitchen and begin to cook I feel energetic and optimistic once more. In the past I have made a delicious creamy polenta with roasted vegetables, a butternut squash soup with cheesy garlic bread, sweet potato butter and sage gnocchi, and of course my famous baked macaroni and cheese. For me, cooking a comfort meal for my close friends is a rejuvenating experience that helps energize me for what lies ahead.


Now that every question and concern you may have had has been answered, you have no excuse but to go and make a homely Sunday family dinner. Bond with your nearest and dearest friends over a heavenly meal and maybe a few very large glasses of wine in preparation for another busy week of college life.


[photos are not the property of the University of Redlands or the Redlands Bulldog]