This is the second post in the “Cooking Knowledge in College” series. If you recall, I had my friend Allison post about her experience studying abroad in Scotland. This next post in the series is written by my good friend Beau Hoover. His guest post is two parts, so check out part 2 for some super easy tips on how to prepare pasta!
I asked him to write a guest post because A) we used to make delicious risotto together in college, B) he’s super into talking about food, C) he’s the nicest person ever, and D) he’s a really cool and laid-back unicyclist!
Take it away, Beau!
Beau is a fourth-year Economics student at the University of California, Los Angeles. He has traveled to 26 countries and 5 continents, he’s fainted a total of five times, and he’s a two-time North American Mountain Unicycle Champion. He shares his experience cooking while studying abroad in the pasta capital of the world: Italy.
Up until about a month ago my home was Milan, Italy where I was studying abroad at Luigi Bocconi University! It should come as no surprise that my food situation was a very good one.
I definitely enjoyed cooking at home, but found myself cooking for far less than half my meals. Between traveling to different parts of Italy and Europe every week (I went to at least one new place every week for 13 weeks) and exploring the local specialties, I simply wasn’t home often enough to cook.
My apartment situation played a big role in my home food habits. The two biggest factors were that I lived with 17 other international students on exchange at Bocconi in a massive apartment and that I usually cooked with my roommate Kenneth. The crowded kitchen meant minimal fridge space and therefore weekly grocery store trips. Kenneth and I usually walked over to the nearby Pam grocery store together on Sunday afternoons (if there was time after weekend travels) or if not, Mondays after class. Typically we would need to stock up on pancetta (cubed bacon?), ground beef, tomatoes, zucchini, mushrooms, peeled tomatoes, yogurt, milk, Gorgonzola, brie, and, of course, lots of wine.
I did have a few quirks about my cooking habits while abroad. I love pasta and we were in Italy, so it made sense (at least to me) that over half of the meals we cooked were pasta-based. My eyes can’t really handle cutting onions and Kenneth is fine without onions, so we literally bought and cooked with zero onions in the 3 months we were there.
The first time I went grocery shopping, I wanted to buy basil for tomato sauce. I annoyingly couldn’t find it. The second time I went shopping I looked even harder throughout the store until I finally gave up and asked someone. The man directed me to an area where there was no packaged basil, but I noticed some leafy plants. Upon closer inspection, I realized that these were actually basil plants! I then bought my first basil plant and enjoyed months of fresh basil on my pasta and in my caprese salads. It was very satisfying watering the basil every day and even better reaping the rewards while eating it.
I hardly ever cook unless I’m cooking for more than just myself. This is a bad habit because it means I won’t take the time to make good food for just me. I was really lucky that Kenneth and I cooked and ate together usually because it meant I had ample opportunities to practice cooking and that I ate much better! The main reason I don’t like cooking for myself is inefficiency. I can put in basically the same effort and make good food for multiple people. It is a bit silly and I made some progress while abroad but I still wish I cooked for myself more.
Overall, it was not too difficult to adjust to cooking and eating abroad. Yes, it did take some time to figure out what some Italian food words translate to, but with Kenneth’s help, I managed to do much better than just get by. I would tell anyone studying abroad in Italy that they should be super excited about cooking!
*photos credited to Beau Hoover