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What’s Cooking?

All PostsFeaturesWhat’s Cooking?

Nothing much, apparently.

story Justin Ong, Contributing Reporters

Kitchen Spaces - Photograph by Carol Wang

Buttery kitchens can only be used during buttery hours. (Carol Wang)

She used to drink chai every morning at home in India, but at Yale-NUS College, Pragya Sethi ’19 has stopped her routine due to the lack of a stove. “It is a culture we have back home,” she said, “and that is something I really miss.” The new campus has no kitchen spaces open to students, unlike in Residential College 4 (RC4), which had a kitchen on every three floors. Although there are cooking facilities at the butteries, they are only for use during buttery hours. Student opinions are divided on whether to have these spaces or not.

The buttery kitchens were closed off by Buttery Managers in consultation with the Dean of Students Office, Interim Dean of Students Brian McAdoo said. The Buttery Managers were concerned about possible poor upkeep of equipment and cooking spaces. He added that theft in the kitchens was a constant problem in RC4, which would not be conducive for the butteries to function.

Aside from missing food, there are other problems thrown into the broth, Melody Madhavan ’17 said. She found it hard to scrub off the memories of “unwashed dishes, noodles clogging up the drains, and chia seeds on the sponges” in RC4. There were often food stains on the fridges and table tops, which deterred her from cooking in the kitchens. She said students failed to hold themselves responsible for kitchen use in the past.

The buttery kitchens are also closed to protect kitchen equipment. Elm Buttery Manager Adlin Zainal ’17 said Buttery Managers wanted to purchase higher-quality equipment without fear of public mishandling.

The issue of common cooking spaces should not be centered on the butteries, she added. Like the dining hall kitchens, “it was never meant to be a public cooking space,” Zainal said. The main issue is the absence of common kitchen spaces within the campus.

Cooking and baking enthusiast Joanelle Toh ’19 said that she is unhappy with the lack of kitchens. “Part of residential life is also learning to be independent, and I think cooking is one of those skills that help you to do so,” she said.

Given the diverse background of students, cooking means much more than a late night tummy-filler. Sethi said that cooking and sharing cuisines from different cultures can allow students to bond.

Sethi suggested that sky gardens can be turned into makeshift cooking spots. Zainal criticized the lack of common kitchens as a “massive architectural oversight”, one that has inadvertently made the butteries the focal point of this issue.

Taking these architectural oversights into account, the school management discussed alternatives, Saga College Rector Sarah Weiss said. She said the rectors had found spaces that could be converted to student kitchens, but it was deemed unfeasible because “the buildings had already been finished in terms of the laying of pipes and wires.” She said any changes would depend on specific renovations but it was unclear as to when these renovations might occur.

In the interim, some have found short-term solutions to this problem. Madhavan said kettles and induction cookers are sufficient and butteries can satisfy her late-night cravings. Some rectors, such as Ms. Weiss and Cendana Vice-Rector Catherine Sanger, have also opened up their personal kitchens to students. This might happen more regularly in the future, Ms. Weiss said.

Despite these discussions and short-term solutions, there is residual dissatisfaction. “I want to cook,” Sethi said, “and not cook with the hat of a chef, but just for passion and myself.”  This vision, it seems, is not one that can be easily attained just yet.

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