Cooking at Olin

Hey, it’s Erika from Texas again.

Being from Texas and not enjoying flying, I stayed at Olin over Thanksgiving break. The dining hall staff also get a break, which results in the Dining Hall at Olin and Babson’s Trim Dining Hall (which Olin students have access to) being closed the entire break as well.

I was made aware of this early enough, and also found out who was staying and what was what.

My roommate also stayed and had a friend over. I thought that was going to be annoying, but it was actually okay because my roommate wasn’t always there.

Other people I hang out with were also here (mostly some Texas people and international students). Emma Pan ’21, who lives in Massachusetts, was nice enough to host Thanksgiving Dinner at her house and Olin had a Friendsgiving the next day.

Besides those two days, I had to fend for myself. I had to be an adult? And cook for myself? Which was actually not a problem, because this wasn’t new to me.

As I mentioned previously, I am Mexican American. I now currently live in a part of the country that doesn’t have tortillas that I prefer. The dining staff tries Mexican food/Latin food, but Mexican food isn’t really what I eat. I could go on to talk about how Mexican food is regional (besides the fact that Latin food is a whole other plane of food variety) and how Mexican American food, something I think I eat (?), is on the same axis on different tangents much the same. TL;DR: my eating habits from at-Texas to at-Olin are vastly different.

That being said, I eat food from the dining hall with almost no difficulties because it changes and I like it.

I grew up in the kitchen with my mom. I learned how she did certain things and I know how things should be cooked and prepared, but my ability to execute them is a different story, case and point, rice. I also grew up watching Food Network and Cooking Channel because I liked to learn (how did I end up at Olin? I don’t know!). These two things resulted in me having random food knowledge.

I also sometimes, not always actually, know how to follow directions on boxed foods. I am also a fan of using the magic box that nukes your food.

See the thing is, I am a busy person. I like having things fill up my schedule. I have that at Olin, and I did in high school. I would get home late from Robotics and I would be hungry and I would need to eat. My schedule normally left me microwaving the meal my mother made earlier or making cup noodles or quesadillas. Sometimes my mom would make me breakfast tacos, which are the best type of taco (especially potato and eggs).  

But cooking in a kitchen that isn’t yours is strange. At my house, we have a comal (a certain type of pan used to cook tortillas) on the stove like 24/7 and easy prep food. I don’t need that at Olin and I wouldn’t use that at Olin because of the dining staff and time issues, but over Thanksgiving break, they were gone and I had time.

I also had groceries because some kind souls were nice enough to take me shopping and because of Amazon Prime Pantry. Honestly though, cooking makes me nervous and I'd rather just nuke some things sometimes. Microwaves are pretty cool, but making food in microwaves isn't easier than stove cooking.

It’s more of a method that prevents burning down the house, unless you put metal in, or you forget your food.

Putting a ramen cup without water in the micro might set off the fire alarm. You can burn popcorn. You can have frozen food. Microwave cooking isn’t easy. 

Here are some tips I learned over break:

Mac and Cheese:

Water amount is important: too little and the pasta doesn’t cook, and too much and the water can't rise and boil and the pasta ends up mushy.

Edge on the lower amount of water because you can always put more water in from the tap to mix in the powder.

Frozen Vegetables:

Nuke the vegetables in the micro until they defrost and pour out the water after. Then nuke till you’re happy with them (I like most vegetables on the verge of burning) and then add butter. Nuke an additional 30 seconds.

Mashed Potatoes/Baked Potato:

Nuke the potato for seven minutes.

Put it in a bowl, break it up, nuke an additional minute.

Put butter and sour cream. Mash up. If you want mashed potatoes, add milk.


The trick to making sure the food cooks correctly, is to cook one thing at a time.

I tried cooking vegetables and mac and cheese at the same time and the mac and cheese didn't cook properly and the vegatables took additional time.

Also keep in mind that doing all three of those properly means a good 20 minutes of your time. 

During Olin-Olin time, I rarely use the microwave in my dorm unless I really want some mac and cheese. The dining staff is really great and eating at Olin is very easy and convenient. Don’t feel overwhelmed. I would still consider stocking microwaveable mac and cheese though, because you never know when you’ll get hungry.

Posted in: Erika '21, Class of 2021