Students whip up popular cookbook

Would you believe it if someone told you that by the end of next your Winter Study term, you would receive an advance from a major publisher to write and publish your own book, and that you would eventually sell close to 120,000 copies?

Alexandra Nimetz ’99, Jason Stanley ’00 and Emeline Starr ’98 had no idea that they would become authors of one of the most popular cookbooks in its genre when they signed up for a Winter Study course on book publishing. Starr was a senior, Nimetz a junior and Stanley a sophomore, and they just happened to be assigned to the same group in that course. For their final project, the group proposed a cookbook written for college students who were beginning learn to cook from scratch. It turned out that Storey Publishing, the company sponsoring the class, liked the idea so much that they approached the three classmates about actually writing and publishing the book. Nimetz, Stanley and Starr spent the spring and summer of ’98 writing and testing recipes for their book and, subsequently, The Healthy College Cookbook was born.

The Healthy College Cookbook includes American and ethnic-inspired dishes, ranging from appetizers and side dishes to main courses and desserts. There are even sections focusing on vegetarian meals, and on the other side of the spectrum, “Dishes for Meat Lovers.” My favorite was the orecchiette with broccoli rabe and pine nuts, which only sounds complicated and was actually a breeze to make within the humble kitchen of my humble abode, East. All I had to do was boil pasta, trim the broccoli rabe and toss it in a pan with the garlic, ricotta cheese, parmesan cheese and olive oil. With only 30 minutes of preparation, my friends were impressed. Broccoli rabe and pine nuts sounded fancy to them, but all I had to do was go to the store and pick some up, then throw some on a pan with oil – just because an ingredient sounds elaborate does not mean it is a pain to cook. The recipe called for freshly ground black pepper and extra virgin olive oil, but I used the powdered pepper and regular olive oil I had and still met with wonderful results.

In addition to being quick and simple, this recipe was healthy just like all the others in the book. Each recipe lists its nutritional information, and I was happy to find that my pasta dish contains 18 grams of protein, three grams of fiber and 63 grams of carbohydrates per serving – that sounds like the perfect way of staving off hunger and refueling for the next day after a long, grueling one of writing papers, working out, meeting professors and running around campus to get to class on time. Maybe you aren’t that stressed out, but it’s still a good idea to get adequate protein, fiber and carbohydrates. In addition, I now have a reputation among my friends as a skilled cook, especially after I whipped up the coconut rice pudding, which was even easier to make than the orecchiette with broccoli rabe and pine nuts. The rice pudding recipe, which included golden raisins and coconut milk, resulted in a creamy masterpiece that my housemates inhaled, fawned over and claimed healed their souls. And I made it all in one pot, in just 30 minutes.

These recipes would suit Williams lifestyles of all stripes. I could imagine myself as either a freshman making the spinach calzone and banana pops in Mission kitchen for a heartwarming entry snacks, or as a senior grabbing some orange French toast before sauntering out of my co-op to drive to my morning class. I could easily think of several possible menus for casual dinner parties on weekends, such as the following: butternut quinoa soup and Caesar salad with cranberries to start, followed by the balsamic mustard chicken with potatoes and grilled asparagus, finished with Mom’s chocolate cake for dessert. To guarantee that this dinner is a joyful one, I could ply my guests with some affordable wine: Sauvignon Blanc to counteract the acidity of the balsamic mustard chicken, or even Pinot Noir to highlight the tanginess. If my friends would stay for coffee, I could bake some lemon-almond biscotti for them. Finally, I could envision myself throwing down some fabulous zucchini bread as a treat that my guests could take home. Basically, you can parlay the recipes from the book into the simplest snack option or the classiest – well, for a college dorm anyway – dinner party.
In addition to providing delicious recipes, the book was written from the perspective of college students while they were still in college. Just like many of us, they were exploring not only how to study, work and live on their own for the first time, but also how to cook and eat healthily on a budget. The authors did not have extensive cooking experience before writing the book. The Healthy College Cookbook even includes sections that address the questions most students ask when they want to start cooking for the first time: What kind of basic cooking supplies do I need? What should I buy to stock my refrigerator and cupboard? How do I poach an egg? What in the world does it mean to tenderize or zest? Au gratin?! And most importantly: How do I defrost food and boil water properly?

The Healthy College Cookbook is a realistic, unpretentious cookbook with go-to recipes that we college students will find easy to incorporate into our everyday lives. For those of you who are getting a bit tired of your dining hall routine, I highly recommend that you inject some flavor into your life by checking out a copy and trying out a few recipes.

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