It started with overnight oats.
Sam’s* recipe was simple enough: rolled oats from the Bow Wow, almond milk and maple syrup from the dining hall snuck out in plastic containers, peanut butter, cinnamon, blueberries, and flax seeds when available from the yogurt stations as flavorful additives.
“It was the peak of New England winter, and the snow made it an effort to get to any dining halls from Old Campus,” they said. “It was just more convenient to have breakfast ready in the dorm.”
But when Sam invested in a griddle and an electric hot pot, oatmeal became just the beginning of what they would create. Soon, they woke up their suite with smells of French toast and kale and feta cheese omelets with caramelized onions. They cooked dozens of servings of rice cake soup for friends on Lunar New Year. They made heart-shaped pancakes on Valentine’s Day. The world was their oyster.
“It’s definitely felt more comforting as I’ve gotten my hands on ingredients I typically use in my home kitchen, upgrading from midnight snacks to full meals of foods we weren’t able to find in New Haven,” they explained proudly. Sam’s self-described finest dish was their Korean BBQ pork belly, a delicate venture that required high-quality ingredient sourcing, a sanitary station, and meticulous preparation. On Sundays, they host “Italian Night” with their suite, using the hot pot to cook anything from classic mac ‘n cheese to cacio e pepe. They also invested in a miniature blender, which they use for smoothies, sauces, and puddings. “We pretty much have a fully functioning kitchen now, with just a little bit of creativity in using our appliances.”
The administration bans such appliances, of course––the personal cooking devices upon which Sam relies to create their culinary masterpieces are illegal to keep in suites due to fire safety concerns. However, having lived—and secretly cooked—in boarding school dorms for years before college, Sam “think[s] that using cooking appliances in dorms is perfectly safe, as long as you take basic precautions.” They understand the concerns, but trust their experience and caution to keep the fire marshals at bay.
In college, eating is inherently a public event; this is especially true with the increasing discouragement of grab-n-go meals by Yale Hospitality. It is also social, sometimes involuntarily—even when choosing to eat alone, it’s hard to avoid eye contact with passersby as you chow down on the hodge-podge of dinner foods scooped from the metal chafing trays. Student kitchens offer some sanctuary for the culinarily inclined, but there is a distinct lack of home in those rentable spaces, where cooking is a temporary and impersonal act. To live and cook in the same place offers peace, control, and creativity which simply cannot be achieved elsewhere.
Perhaps this cooking is an act of rebellion then, or perhaps, it’s merely a means of survival. Or perhaps, it’s a preservation of creative identity in the face of repetitive dining hall breakfasts. Either way, Sam isn’t planning on stopping anytime soon.
As a bonus for our readers, Sam has provided a loose recipe for the dish that started it all: overnight oats
DORM OVERNIGHT OATS
Prep time: 5 minutes
Total time: 6-8 hours
- Gather ingredients as described in the initial paragraph
- Add around ½ cup oats to a mason jar or tupperware, and then fill halfway with dining hall milk of your choice.
- Stir in desired add-ons (chia seeds, peanut butter, cinnamon, banana, yogurt, or any other available dining hall staple)
- Close lid and shake well
- Store in communal refrigerator overnight, or for at least 6-8 hours
*Names and minor details have been obscured to protect the identity of the subject from inquisitive fire marshals.