The perfect kitchen
// Leanne Kriz

“I don’t really like this,” or, “I think this would taste better if it sat overnight,” are phrases commonly heard around my family’s dinner table. They may certainly sound like harsh or unnecessary statements, especially when coming from a daughter to her mother or father, and I know many parents who would be annoyed or insulted to hear this from their child on a regular basis. However, my brother and I were always taught that if something could be better, we should find a way to do it. Dinner table conversation would generally start with a discussion of the food in front of us, and how we could improve it. What was concocted from this ritual was my love for creating, adapting, and, most importantly, eating food.
I quickly learned that this deeply embedded habit, while it led to some scrumptious meals in the Kriz household, wasn’t accepted everywhere. When you try to tell your new boyfriend, who is attempting to impress you, that his soup was great but maybe if he added some salt, fresh parsley, and thyme, it would be top notch, it does not go over particularly well.
As I began to gauge when and where my mealtime commentary was appropriate, I simultaneously began developing my skills as a maker and eater of food. I hesitate to call myself a foodie, a term which traditionally refers to amateur cooks and those with a thirst for food knowledge, because that term is too often affiliated with fancy restaurants, out-of-reach wine-tasting festivals, and exquisite ingredients like truffle oil.
This definition is only furthered when the go-to foodie website,, featured their “10 Favourite Foods for Winter 2012”. It included a recipe for “Deer paired with red beets, sunchokes, king oysters, and macadam.” I have no idea where to find deer. Red beets, okay, fair enough, but sunchokes? Extensive research yields I have never heard of them before nor do I care to spend my time hunting them down. King oysters … okay, wonderful, oysters … but so wrong. King oysters are mushrooms! By the time I get to macadam – all I can find is Wikipedia stating that it is “a type of road construction pioneered by the Scotsman John Loudon McAdam in around 1820.” If it doesn’t exist in Wikipedia, frankly, it’s not real. I don't need my recipes being complicated by made-up words; if it is a macadamia, call it that.
You may now understand why I hesitate to call myself a “foodie”. I want cheap, accessible, and as-healthy-as-possible food. So I coined the term “student foodie”, which has of course already been coined by various students across the globe, but I will provide a new definition to the title of student foodie. None of these student foodies have attempted to do what I am attempting. Over the next semester, I will provide a recipe or two in each column, which can all be made for $12 or less. All of these ingredients you will be able to find easily and locally, and you should be able to feed yourself and a few others.
This week’s recipe is the recipe for the perfect kitchen, so sadly, the $12 does not apply. You need to be set up and ready-to-go beforehand so you can whip up some fantastic cheap meals in the future. It should be assumed that you already have the basics (flour, sugar, rice, olive oil, oregano and thyme etc.), as these and similar ingredients will appear in many recipes along the way. To that mix, let’s add my most basic-but-necessary ingredients in the kitchen.
Having your kitchen set up and adjusted perfectly to your style is the first step to becoming a student foodie. Having the right appliances are also essential and you can find most of the necessities at thrift stores around town. Soon, you will be whipping up cheap meals on the fly; just remember to persevere. You are going to screw up, but you must remember to keep your knife sharp, your kitchen well stocked, and carry on.
Best of luck on your food endeavours for the coming months.
Chow chow, thrifty friends!


1. Lemon: I love lemon. I can cook almost anything as long as I’ve got lemon. Sometimes the lemon juice, or sometimes the zest. Try to have lemon on hand at all times. If they start looking sad, whip up a salad dressing: 1/4 cup Olive oil, 1/4 cup lemon, 1/4 tsp. salt, and a clove of garlic. Simple but delicious.

2. Garlic: Same deal. You must have fresh garlic on hand at all times.

3. Onions: I feel like I spend a significant portion of my cooking time sautéing onions. They have so much flavour once sautéed, and are the base for many of my meals. Plus they smell so good! PRO TIP: Running behind on cooking your meal and the guests are arriving way too soon? Simply sauté onions, waft the smell around, pull out all your ingredients, mess it up, and for all they know you’ve been at it for hours.

4. Balsamic vinegar: Great for dressings of all kinds.

5. Soya sauce: Key for sauces, dressings and more!

6. Sriracha Sauce: It is fantastic, cheap, and otherwise known as cock sauce. It is a hot chili sauce used to spice up meals.

7. Fresh herbs: If you are not used to cooking with fresh herbs it is difficult to use them before they go bad, so don’t rush into anything. Dried herbs will do the trick until you're sure fresh herbs are worth your money. I like to have parsley, cilantro, rosemary, basil, mint, and dill.

8. Seeds and nuts: It's great to have walnuts, pecans, pumpkin seeds, peanuts, pine nuts, and sesame seeds, but truth is, I generally only have two or three kinds. Pick your favourite to start, and get them in the bulk food section for less. I use these in all sorts of things, but most commonly to throw on top of salads for nutrition, crunch, and flavour.

9. Bouillon cubes: A necessity for soups and gravies.

10. Red Wine Vinegar: Make some mean salad dressings with red wine vinegar.

Leanne comes from a long line of food lovers, and has been cooking since she was eight years old. She has spent many years creating the perfect chocolate chocolate chip cookie. In spite of all of her food experimentation, to this day her favourite meal is still a delicious bowl of popcorn.

//Leanne Kriz, columnist

Enjoy it? Share this on Facebook


© 2011 The Capilano Courier. phone: 604.984.4949 fax: 604.984.1787 email: