Adventures in Medical School Cooking

by Lorien E. Menhennett

celery root

Cooking with new ingredients brings about both successes and failures. Pictured here is a celery root. I got one of these from my local CSA recently and attempted to cook and mash it for dinner. It was … interesting.

Six months ago, if you’d told me that one thing I would do MORE of during medical school (compared to my previous life) was cook, I would have laughed in your face. Guffawed, actually. While I did a fair amount of cooking in my 20s, my early 30s was markedly stove free until I started using a meal preparation service during my last year in Chicago. You picked your meals for the week, and they did all the prep—the shopping, chopping, measuring—and then you cooked it at your leisure. It was magical. NYC has similar companies, but none that really had the freedom of choice that I wanted.

So when I first got here last August, I used my crockpot. Then when I got sick of that, I ate a lot of hummus. And a lot of chicken caesar from Just Salad, a restaurant down the street. I quickly realized hummus and eating out was not a long-term dietary solution. So the closest thing I made to a New Year’s Resolution this year was to do my best to be more healthy—that included regularly going to the gym and cooking too.

I’m proud to say both have been going well. It doesn’t hurt that I have a gym in my building. Or that I can get groceries delivered. Or that there’s an incredible CSA just across the street that provides me with a giant bag of produce each week for $12. Even so, it all takes effort, and time—the latter of which is in especially short supply for medical students.

It has been time well spent though, I think. And I’ve made some grand culinary discoveries. At this moment I’m eating kale. Before coming here, I had never once bought kale. I learned that I really, really like it. (Adding bacon, cranberries, and blue cheese doesn’t hurt.) Frisee is also amazing. And purple potatoes! But there have been failures too, as with anything. Like half of tonight’s meal, which went into the garbage after two bites (two because I thought maybe I was mistaken after one—I wasn’t). As wonderful as mashed (cooked) celery root sounded, it just wasn’t my thing. Not even grated parmesan cheese or fresh dill could rescue it for me.

It’s an adventure, though, and a break from studying—two things I gladly welcome each and every day.