Should I continue with this project? Should I--as blogbuddy Chance suggests--write an ecookbook? So far, I have started a pantry, including a freezer pantry, suggested some essential equipment, notably, a rice cooker, and test-driven a recipe-less concoction in the rice cooker. So far, so good.
I continue to look around for helpful sources. I was in Barnes and Noble last week and saw a slew of slow cooker cookbooks, with nary a rice cooker book. I check around the blogosphere. Let's go through my subtitle in reverse order.
THE DANGEROUS. There are many blog posts that suggest going against dorm rules so you can keep a toaster over, a Foreman grill, even a hotplate in your dorm room. Many of these have a jeering tone: "Hey, I'm an adult. Can't I be trusted with a hotplate?" Uh, no. I remember reading about a dorm that burned down because a student tried to dry her underwear with a blow dryer. And I remember being in college myself, trying to stay up all night, and falling asleep over my books.
Some of the posts advising hiding proscribed appliances in your closet are written by PARENTS. Please, parents, your child is just as likely to pass out as the next kid.
THE BAD. I've already described some of these: ramen stroganoff, velveeta nachos, and the like. One recent discovery (no link--find it yourself if you want it) gave directions for microwave meatloaf, which consisted of 1/4 lb of ground beef cooked in a mug with various meatloaf ingredients. To me, this is simply useless. Assuming you don't have 1/4 lb of hamburger in a defrosted state, you need to trudge to the grocery, purchase your quarter pound of meat, pay, return to the dorm, and concoct your meatloaf.
The GOOD. Well, it doesn't exist. There are decent college cookbooks out there, but they are not dorm cookbooks. One I flipped through at Barnes and Noble gave the useful (I'm being sarcastic) suggestion that if you don't have buttermilk to make your muffin batter, you can sub yogurt. Gee, that's helpful for the average dorm dweller.
So this is what I think would be good.
First, a PANTRY. I've already started this. With basic ingredients, you can make any number of things quickly. It's the haphazard shopping that is a time-waster.
Second, a FEW recipes. Many blog posts on the subject advise buying your scholar a basic cookbook. Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything is often mentioned. That's a fine suggestion for someone like me, who loves to peruse cookbooks, but that sucker is over 900 pages long. I can just see your scholar flipping though, trying to decide. Remember: PARADOX OF CHOICE. So let's limit the choices.
My cookbook is written for my darling daughter, so my recipes will be her favorites. I remember reading Peg Bracken's I Hate to Cookbook, a fun read, though I never did cook anything from it. Anyway, she said: no one needs more than 28 recipes (or was it 30?). Well, I think that the college student needs even fewer.
These will be mine, decided on in consultation with my dear Lucy M.
1. African peanut soup
2. Thai coconut curry (shrimp, chicken, or vegetable)
3. Shrimp and corn soup
6. Chile (beef and vegetarian)
7. Red beans and rice (of course!)
8. A magic spinach/ricotta dish that can be Italian or Mexican, depending.
None of these needs the stove; some can be put together and then microwaved. These--along with the rice cooker basics--provide plenty of variety. They are mostly one-pot meals. I seem to remember Peg Bracken also saying that you don't need to get all your nutrients in each meal; you can spread them out over time! Good point.
Anyway, I would be appreciative of any other ideas. Be looking for further development through summer.
Newsflash: Peg Bracken's book is being republished in a 50th Anniversary edition. Bracken is a great writer.