Culinary Corner: A2 Snacks

Crème brulee, key lime pie, bread pudding, soufflé and homemade oreos – did you know you could be making all this in your dorm kitchen? Perhaps “you” in the hypothetical might be more appropriate, as some of us do not possess the culinary skills to boil a pot of water, but this is not the case for first-years Kim Stroup ’12 and Andrew Kung ’12, who have made all this and more for their entry, Armstrong 2.

When I caught up with Stroup and Kung on Sunday night, they were whipping up a little something for Snacks. Now in my personal experience, “a little something” has usually involved a bag of Doritos and a box of cookies from Stop ‘N’ Shop. But here in Mission kitchen, Stroup was checking on the green tea frozen yogurt chilling in the fridge, while Kung stirred bubble tea on the stovetop in between batches of white and dark chocolate chipped Diversity Cookies (“cookies that used to be illegal in the South”).

Both Stroup and Kung cited the Food Network as an early inspiration for their interest in cooking. “I remember thinking, ‘I want to have this food, but I know no one else is going to make it for me,’” Stroup explained. Yet the two also mark the past Winter Study as a turning point in their cooking careers, when they had the time to devote to trying new recipes while creating their own. It was also around this time that they began to join forces, with a repertoire that extends from nutmeg maple cream pie to four-cheese ravioli with bacon alfredo sauce. Said one appropriately impressed entrymate Conor Ryan ’12, “Kim and Andrew together is like Batman and Robin – or Batman and Superman.”

Kung and Stroup’s culinary accomplishments are impressive enough on their own, but when placed in the context of a Williams student schedule they seem positively Herculean. I mean, I talk a big game about wanting to cook, but really, I can only get myself to microwave a bowl of EasyMac, and that’s on a good day. So I asked them what advice they had for the average student who would like to cook more, but for reasons of time and convenience, don’t get around to it.

“You’ve got to be creative,” said Kung, who has boiled ravioli in a mixing bowl and made tea in a frying pan in campus kitchens when in a pinch. Apparently, it is also possible to borrow whisks and other things from Dining Services, if one asks nicely. Stroup suggested that aspiring chefs sign up for Log Lunch preparation, where they can practice working with good ingredients and recipes without having to come up with either themselves – sort of like training wheels for food preparation. Both suggested looking at food blogs for new, easy recipes, and Stroup also mentioned a new online recipe database, Gusto!, that she has been working on with other Williams students for next year.

If one needs more proof that cooking well is possible at Williams, look no further than the rest of Armstrong 2. Though many of Kung and Stroup’s entrymates admit to being cast in the Doritos-buying mold I mentioned before, they’ve been inspired to cook more themselves, making birthday cakes, chocolate banana muffins and homemade whipped cream for chocolate covered berries.

After an entire interview talking about the food, looking at the food and smelling the food, it seemed that the only thing left to do, for the sake of journalistic integrity, was to taste the food, and Kung and Stroup generously obliged. Though the green tea frozen yogurt hadn’t finished chilling, the combination of Greek yogurt and green tea powder gave it a tangy sweetness that reminded me of citrus, but somehow tasted nothing like it.

Kung’s cookies, instead of being exciting by virtue of being new, impressed by showing the mastery of an old, familiar theme. The dough was fluffy and almost cake-like, while the combination of white and dark chocolate gave it the richness and sweetness I expect from my cookie experience.

The bubble tea, known as “boba,” at least on the West Coast, consisted of a sweet, milky black tea poured over tapioca balls and consumed through a huge straw. It was also delicious, but given the ingredients and the fact that this is a college paper, I’m afraid that’s all the description I can offer without driving Thelma-and-Louise-style off Innuendo Mountain.

Needless to say, I was very impressed, not to mention very full. I had no idea it was possible to cook anything in a dorm kitchen, let alone this sumptuously. It was also inspiring to realize that if these two first-years can throw together homemade cinnamon rolls, I might someday be able to pull myself together and learn how to cook a dish that doesn’t have “instant” in the title. Or, alternatively, I could wander down to Mission kitchen more often, where Stroup and Kung might be cooking some more of their toothsome treats.