Credit:Tara Narayan

Elliot’s Recipe Corner

My third week offerings are slim: if I were better I would teach you to cook a nice risotto, maybe, or a crispy piece of fish. I will attempt to explain why I cannot. The past two weeks were a series of what I’d call culinary calamities if my delusions of grandeur were any greater. As it stands I suffered nothing more interesting than my own clumsiness and poor decision-making skills. 

I got off to a brilliant start by setting off two staircases worth of fire alarms trying to cook salmon. That poor fish looked like some of the houses after the 2020 California wildfires. Somehow, the one time I flambéed pears in Exeter College kitchen last term turned out more successfully. Either way, something like half of my year group saw me, mortified, explaining to the porters that yes, theoretically I understand that one is not meant to cremate their dinner. Later I tried to comfort myself with a rewatch of Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown, but seeing as I could not make like Tony and drown my self-loathing in negronis on the Italian coast, it only exacerbated my keen sense of loss. I stewed in shame in my room instead, wary of showing my face outside of the staircase. 

I got over myself a few days later, though, and decided to make a salad. The hob would not even be involved – what could go wrong? Fool I was. I cursed my hubris from the first aid room of the Porters’ Lodge, nursing my blood-soaked fingers. To add insult to injury, the same porter that had enjoyed the spectacle of my incinerated fish was present when I showed up, all regret and apology after slicing my thumb on a can, holding out my hand like a four-year-old with a boo-boo in search of gauze and tape. Furthermore, my thumb did not manage to heal by the time I played the opening night of Don Giovanni so I was forced to dab dots of blood onto a spare copy of music between arias. Fortunately, I perhaps better fulfilled my Bourdain fantasies by showing up to the Eurotrash-themed Balliol bop that night. At the very least I managed to become more inebriated than I had after the fire alarm. 

Self-pity and laziness made me loath to step foot in the kitchen again after that. Besides the time I spent frying homemade Colombian arepas, I mainly subsisted on olives, fruit, and various cheeses. When I became sick with exhaustion after May Day and my opera, I treated myself to M&S soup. 

So I can offer little advice on cooking for yourself this week, besides a prayer for tolerant porters and a hope that you may avoid the predilection towards minor injuries I seem to have developed. If these weeks have taught me anything, it is that my advice is the epitome of the blind leading the blind. This week I will offer honest recommendations for when cooking is quite simply not an option. If desperate for a spot of sustenance when the sun is out, Opera Café’s soup is wonderful, and if the idea of eating blocks of cheese out of the refrigerator tickles your fancy, I’ve had my best luck in the Oxford Cheese Shop under the Covered Market. I hope your misadventures are less painful than mine.