While the food itself often took a backseat to the anxiety-inducing antics of restaurant life in FX’s hit show The Bear, one of the show’s cast member recently released a lower-stakes, introductory cookbook designed specifically for college students.
The Bear drew audiences into Carmen "Carmy" Berzatto’s (Jeremy Allen White) kitchen with its chaotic cooking scenes (Corner!), exploration of artistry and dynamic cast of characters. Matty Matheson, a Canadian chef who plays loveable handyman Neil Fak, has released a free online cookbook for broke, hungry 20-somethings like you and me.
The cookbook draws from Matheson’s long-time YouTube series, Cookin’ Somethin’ w/ Matty Matheson, which currently has over a million subscribers.
Cookin’ Somethin’ for College features “twelve recipes, minimal ingredients, and lots of flavor,” as described on the website. All you need to access the PDF of the cookbook is an email address.
The cover of the cookbook mimics a composition notebook, adorned with various stickers and a red stamp-like graphic that reads “FOR COLLEGE” under the title. The cookbook looks and reads like a zine on the inside. The short table of contents is surrounded by collages and each recipe page is filled with doodles in pen.
Scrolling through the PDF, it was clear Matheson and his team was trying to appeal to a younger audience. I always felt that cooking from a recipe instead of my family’s guidance (no measurements, just vibes) always felt strange, but the informal language and graphics made the recipes feel more approachable.
I tried the peanut butter instant noodles with spicy sesame fried egg, partly because I had most of the ingredients already but also because I was craving Asian food. Although I do appreciate the dining halls and restaurants in Norris, it's hard to find good Asian food on campus, and if you can’t find something you want, you have to take matters into your own hands.
Out of all the recipes, the noodles probably require the least effort and time, with no prep time and a cooking time of 5 minutes. The recipe calls for two packets of instant noodles, peanut butter, chili crisp, sesame seeds, eggs, and garnish (which I took as optional).
The instructions were straightforward: After cooking the instant ramen according to its packaging, separate the soup and noodles to create a new mixture of one part peanut butter and two parts soup. Then, fry eggs and sesame seeds in chili crisp oil and toss the noodles into the soup mixture. Assemble and serve for two.
Having limited kitchenware to work with, I was forced to reuse the same two bowls I had to make the ramen, mix the soup and split the noodles into two servings. By the time I had fried the eggs, the other components had been out for a while and were a bit cold.
Upon first taste, the peanut butter taste didn’t come through because the noodles didn’t have enough time to absorb the flavor. Adding the noodles to the soup mixture enhanced the taste greatly. To add more flavor, I drizzled some extra chili crisp oil on the noodles, giving it more of a kick.
On a scale of “never again” to “fantastic,” I would give the first recipe an “would eat again.” The experience of being in the kitchen felt nice, and while I was flying around, my friend waited at the counter and did her homework. Because I was cooking for someone else, I felt even more motivated to create a satisfactory product.
Since coming to college, I haven’t been able to cook because of a lack of incentive and preparation, not to mention the convenience of the dining hall. Carving out the time to try out this recipe, I was forced to get back behind the stove and get back into the craft, albeit with an easy dish.
Some of the other recipes seemed out of my skill level (frying my own mala-spice chicken? making bbq chicken enchiladas?), mainly because the prep and cooking time needed for them seemed daunting. Still, I had a lot of fun trying out the recipe and would be willing to try the remaining ones with a little bit of courage.
On the last page of the PDF is a note from Matheson:
“College is a formative moment, maybe one of the most important of your life! You can totally reinvent yourself and be who you really want to be. Look at me. I was a punk kid who was terrible in school then I went to culinary school, found what I loved and became a chef. And I think that’s amazing. Contained in this cookbook are 12 recipes that I wanted to share with you while you’re out there in the world, figuring stuff out.”
If you’re hungry and have access to ingredients and cookware, I recommend browsing through the cookbook. It was fun and rewarding to take a basic dish and elevate it with a twist. College is the time for trying new things, and this is a great way to start!