Student group longs for home cookin’

A University student group meets monthly for cooking and conversation.

Amber Schadewald

It was dinnertime Friday at Middlebrook Hall. Stomachs growled as usual, and awaited the smorgasbord of food.

The smell of homemade pizza dough filled the air and hands busily chopped fresh peppers, onions and pineapple.

This evening the chefs were not employees of the University Dining Service, but students looking for an alternative to their regular cuisine.

It was the kick-off event for Damn it Tastes Good, a University student group based around cooking.

The group rented a space in Middlebrook and invited students to join in on their night of cooking, games and, of course, eating.

Dan Hosker, first-year aerospace engineering student, said it was an event he couldn’t pass up.

“I like to eat and I like to cook,” Hosker said. “Did I mention that I like to eat?”

The night’s menu featured homemade pizza – a kick-off tradition – and chocolate chip cookies. Hosker and other newcomers got to knead dough and stir ingredients.

The group plans to meet once a month, usually on Friday evenings, said Alex Fink, president of Damn It Tastes Good.

Fink said the group is looking for new members – everyone from EasyMac connoisseurs to more experienced cooks.

Last year the group had about 90 to 100 members, but about 35 people usually attend each event.

Damn It Tastes Good began as a group of friends who cooked together while attending Wayzata High School, said Dai Shi, the group’s vice president.

Shi said they decided to keep the group together in college to meet new people and keep up their cooking skills.

“You don’t get to cook much as a college student – especially in the dorms,” Shi said.

Most of the residence halls at the University have a room with an oven or stove and kitchen supplies that can be rented from the front desk, but some residents don’t know they exist.

Robert Hoffman, a music junior who lives in Middlebrook, said he didn’t know about a kitchen available for student use, but he said he wouldn’t use it much anyways.

“I’m not a good cook,” Hoffman said. “That’s the only reason why I come (to Middlebrook UDS) to eat.”

Hoffman said he likes the UDS chicken fingers, but he made a disappointed grunt when asked about his half-eaten dinner that evening.

Pre-med first-year student Ryan Brandt, said he’s not a fan of the dorm food and he said he misses dinner at home.

“Mom’s cooking is much better,” Brandt said. “And I actually miss being able to use the oven.”

Other students say that’s the appeal of UDS – not having to make the food yourself. Chemistry junior Tim Normandt said he loves to cook, but it’s just too big of a hassle. University first-year student Katie Hoxtell said cooking takes time she doesn’t have.

Hoxtell said although she’s a picky eater, she’s been able to find dorm food she likes, the cheese pizza in particular. This evening she had a piece of pepperoni pizza on her tray.

“I didn’t like the way the cheese looked tonight,” Hoxtell said. “Like I said, I’m picky.”

Shi said knowing how to prepare your own meals is a good alternative to eating out.

Besides cooking, the group has been a good way to meet people, Fink said. Fink and his girlfriend Megan Ritchie met through the group. Ritchie jokes that the love of food brought them together.

“Love and spices were in the air,” she said.

Members of the group have joined for a variety of reasons, including first-year student Cassie Abel, who says she doesn’t even like to cook.

“I just pretend to cook and then I eat,” she said.

Abel is a vegetarian, and although the group already prepares a non-meat dish at each event, she’s excited that the group is planning on exploring vegan dishes this year.

The group also hopes to collaborate with student cultural groups, giving people a chance to both experience and taste other cultures.

“It’s a great way to learn something new outside the classroom,” Fink said.