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reed magazine logoSpring 2008
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The Impoverished Students' Book of Cookery, Drinkery
& Housekeepery

Being an excerpt from the cult culinary classic by
Jay Rosenberg ’63 (1942–2008)

Prolegomena to Impoverishment

We may provisionally define an Impoverished Student as an individual who loves to eat, hates to cook, and cannot really afford to do either.

It is important to distinguish between the merely Impoverished Student and the really Impoverished Student. The really Impoverished Student is poor! In a cookbook written for his attention, one may find such dishes as “Hamburgers that Bounce” (one part meat to six parts flour), “Water Stew” (boil water; serve hot with bread), and “Spaghetti with ‘Out’ Sauce” (spaghetti without sauce). All to no avail, of course, for the really Impoverished Student cannot afford to buy a cookbook.

The merely Impoverished Student, for whom this work is intended, on the other hand, need not be poor. One of the finest Impoverished Students it has been my pleasure to meet is a young lady worth roughly $10 million dollars but the only way one could come to know that is by being told. Impoverished studenthood is primarily a state of mind.

The average cost of on-campus eating in American colleges is approximately $50 per month. The average quality of on-campus eating in American colleges ranges from just awful to absolutely abysmal. The Impoverished Student wishes to eat better than that for about half the cost. He can, but there are certain steps which he must take first.

kitchens and KITCHENS
kitchens are gleaming chrome, formica, and porcelain constructs created for the American Housewife. Cooking in a kitchen is not utterly unlike cooking in one of the lavatories at Grand Central Station, and about as pleasant. KITCHENS, contrariwise, are small, dingy, comfortable rooms frequently found in the apartments of Impoverished Students. They contain the following two pieces of immovabilia without which all is for naught: one stove complete with oven and broiler, and one refrigerator complete with freezer. Equip yourself with one KITCHEN before beginning…

There exist in America several fine organizations designed expressly for the purpose of helping Impoverished Students fill up a KITCHEN with movabilia. I refer, of course, to such institutions as Goodwill and the Salvation Army. Each year, non-impoverished non-students contribute thousands of perfectly functional pots, pans, dishes, cups, glasses, knives, forks, and spoons to such organizations, which implements may then be resold to us at ridiculously low prices. And who are we to quarrel with such a fate? Buy from them! You can always pass off the ill-assorted resultant as a composite of antiques, genuine European originals, and souvenirs picked up by your Aunt Maude at the World’s Fair of 1939.

About the only item which you won’t be able to purchase in such a locale is a good cast-iron skillet, because nobody ever gives away a good cast-iron skillet. Get a new one at the hardware store. Season it by heating some cooking oil (just enough to coat the bottom of the pan) in it until it smokes. Keep the skillet seasoned by never scouring it with steel wool pads and/or cleanser…

Next, your movabilia having been acquired, set aside about fifteen feet of shelf space for what shall be termed the SPICE RACK (although it contains much, much more). The SPICE RACK exists as a direct result of the Impoverished Students’ basic orientation—viz., impoverishment. Its purpose is encapsulated in the following Operating Theory.

Ninety-eight percent of all good cooking being grounded in proper seasonings anyway, since you cannot afford to buy top-quality expensive food, buy inexpensive food and put top-quality seasoning on it. No one will ever know the difference…

Being a contribution toward a general theory of how to eat well on one dollar per day and live to tell about it…

There are three maxims which govern the whole range, scope, and depth of impoverished student cookery and which the Impoverished Student ought to keep always before his mind as he reads these recipes.

MAXIM I: The Impoverished Student always preheats his oven. Always!

MAXIM II: The Impoverished Student always tastes as he cooks. Always!

MAXIM III: Whenever I make reference to “butter” in this book, I mean oleomargarine. I can’t tell the difference in cooking. I’ll bet you can’t tell the difference in cooking. In fact, the manner in which the Impoverished Student deploys the contents of his SPICE RACK makes it highly unlikely that anybody can tell the difference in cooking. The difference, in case you are not aware, is approximately this: FIFTY CENTS PER POUND! If you don’t use oleomargarine, you’ll be paying more for butter than for meat. It isn’t worth it. SO, whenever I say “butter” in this cookbook, I mean oleomargarine. And don’t you forget it!

Now, onward.

Jay Rosenberg’s book is available from the Reed bookstore,, 503/777-7758. Proceeds support scholarships at Reed.

reed magazine logoSpring 2008