Senior housing challenges students’ culinary creativity

Seniors Lexi Diamond, Jenna Konstantine, and Kara Conley pose in their kitchen with friends. Students often struggle to maintain balanced diets after transitioning to senior and off-campus housing. Photo By: Spencer Davis
Seniors Lexi Diamond, Jenna Konstantine, and Kara Conley pose in their kitchen with friends. Students often struggle to maintain balanced diets after transitioning to senior and off-campus housing. Photo By: Spencer Davis
Seniors Lexi Diamond, Jenna Konstantine, and Kara Conley pose in their kitchen with friends. Students
often struggle to maintain balanced diets after transitioning to senior and off-campus housing. Photo By: Spencer Davis

Common sites of stress for seniors include the library at 3 a.m., the office of a potential employer or the area in the front of the room where you are presenting your senior thesis. Though rarely considered, the kitchen also comes with its unique difficulties. With the comforts of a meal plan gone, seniors must fend for themselves when it comes to cooking, food shopping and divvying up these newfound responsibilities. Though rolling up your sleeves to do dishes is certainly without its pleasantries, cooking with friends can be an opportunity to bond with friends over failed recipes and for a lucky few to find their zen in the art of cuisine.

All culinary adventures must, of course, start at the grocery store. Here, seniors find concerns about expenses must be brought to the forefront when making choices about what to stock their pantries with for the week. Thus, drawn by prices friendly to the wallet of an unemployed student, most seniors frequent Stop & Shop. Some, however, head to Adams Fairacre Farms for what they consider to be fresher food.

Alison Dillulio ’13 who lives on College Avenue is someone who prefers to venture a little farther down Dutchess Turnpike to Adams on Wednesday, their discount day.

She said, “I shop at Adams on Wednesday for the 10% special and it helps that they have the best selection of meat and highest quality produce compared to Stop and Shop or Target. Occasionally, my housemates and I shop at BJ’s on Route 9 for the bulk stuff.”

Each house has its way of bearing the costs of shopping though many find ease in  some communal methods and are open to sharing food with their fellow housemates.

Nick Kilmarx ’13 and the other residents of his Town House have opted for this approach. He said, “Whoever eventually goes shopping usually buys a ton of stuff, mostly standard buys and we end up all chipping in equally. None of us is terribly picky so the trips are usually quick and the selections, simple.”

Andres Estela ’13 finds that doing his own shopping works best for him, with the exception of logical collective purchases.

Estela said, “Some things run out slowly enough that they’d take up too much space if we all got our own. So we share butter, cooking oil, hot sauce and a few other things like that.”

Just as shopping strategies vary, so do cooking habits. While some prioritize time and efficiency, others see it as a break from other duties.

Kilmarx said, “I usually don’t take more than an hour to cook. The night of the week never really matters, but if it’s the weekend I’ll probably make something quick.”

For Estela, the cooking process can be a creative, therapeutic and recess from work, though he still has to prioritize his time according to his schedule.

He said, “It depends on how much work I have and how I’m feeling. I don’t find myself cooking dishes that require a great deal of preparation anyway, but there are some nights when I’m too busy to cook much at all and just make a sandwich or heat up leftovers.”

Sam Wagner ’13, a track and cross-country star varsity athlete, takes his eating habits a little more seriously.

In an email statement Wagner said, “I spend anywhere from 15-30 minutes preparing each meal and I prefer to cook for myself because I can control how my food is cooked (i.e. ingredients used). As an athlete I feel as though I can maximize my performance by controlling exactly what I eat.”

Dilullio agreed and noted the advantage of not relying on ACDC.

She said, “It’s much easier to maintain a healthy diet. I now stay as far away as possible from the ACDC. All of the fruit and vegetables there are not of the best quality and the prepared foods are sometimes greasy.”

Oppositely, Estela has had a tougher time with balancing his diet, realizing that though maybe not always of the highest quality, the DC allowed for easy access to food essentials that can prove fleeting when they are not in constant supply.

He explained, “The hardest thing for me is eating fresh fruits and vegetables. Foods don’t all keep well and I find that the first few days after I go grocery shopping I have fruit, but by the end of the week I’m all out. At the DC this was never an issue for me.”

Estela, realizing he may have taken it for granted, now looks forward to a trip to the DC.

He said, “ACDC is a great social space. In a lot of ways it’s the heart of campus and I can feel connected to the pulse of the Vassar community…there is something undeniably cool with the occasional overwhelming immersion into the college’s student body.”

Another appealing aspect of the ACDC is that at the end of a meal, no one has to argue over who is going to do the dishes.

Wagner attested to this, stating, “Keeping the kitchen clean is a source of stress and sometimes tension. Housemates can differ widely on their perceptions of ‘clean’. It is not a disaster by any means, but the kitchen is often dirty as the result of the age-old ‘tragedy of the commons.’”

In his house, Estela acknowledges that his housemates are less concerned with kitchen cleanliness so he ends up tackling most of the cleaning duties. But he affirmed, “As with any shared space, everybody brings in their own talents, skills and energy. Some people clean, some people cook, some people are generous with their beer. Whatever it may be, overall balance is probably more important. It’s just a like any relationship, for it to work, you have to pick up each other’s slack in different areas.”

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