Nouvelle Cuisine, Student Style

By Kara Sokol

Beyond Pop Tarts and ramen noodles

A warm, savory biscuit, flattened and crispy, drizzled with fresh thimbleberry jam and eaten with the hands.

Paula Deen comfort food? The latest Top Chef quickfire challenge? Nope, it’s a "biscake"—a biscuit-pancake hybrid created for hungry dorm-dwellers by environmental engineering major Chris Paquette.

Chris’s next-door neighbor, Danny Messinger, recalls the night Chris developed his splendid concoction.

"He has an appreciation for real food," Danny says of Chris, who could often be found cleaning fresh-caught smelt in the community bathroom (much to the dismay of their resident assistant). "We missed home-cooking sometimes, and that night we really wanted pancakes. Chris had a new George Foreman grill, and he wondered if there was a quick and easy way he could make them himself."

Indeed there was. Chris bought two tubes of pre-cut refrigerated biscuits and cooked them flat for two or three minutes each, or until grill marks appeared on the dough. He served them warm and buttery to hungry hallmates, who slathered them with jam, drizzled them with honey, or bathed them in pure maple syrup.

"Chris made twenty biscakes and still didn’t have enough to feed everyone who wanted them that night," Danny says. "They were delicious."

Though residence dining halls offer a huge variety of handmade, healthful, and delicious fare (especially compared to the olden days), students will always crave a satisfying dorm nosh. When the hankering for home cooking strikes at 2:00 am, Tech students look beyond the traditional ramen noodles and get crafty.

Case in point: vegetarian microwave chili à la Jess Banda, a fifth-year scientific and technical communication major studying global technological leadership. It’s a definite cut above Hormel: Jess’s recipe calls for a mixture of canned salsa, diced tomatoes, red beans, black beans, and hominy or corn, plus a fresh onion and a bell pepper, sliced, all combined with a package of chili seasoning. Microwave until heated through and voilà—chili that’s pretty darn close to what mom used to make.

Creative cuisine exists beyond the residence hall as well. Students often say it’s more difficult with their own apartments and kitchens; navigating recipes can be overwhelming, and buying groceries is tough when you’re on a budget so tight it squeaks.

Third-year wildlife ecology major Kiri Kennedy’s solution: nomlettes. Urban Dictionary defines them as "Non-omelets of omnomnom proportion" (translation: yummy omelets). The recipe calls for eggs and a lot of imagination; the innards can include tater tots, onion rings, French fries, macaroni and cheese, or virtually anything else left in your fridge. Kiri fries them up with cooked and seasoned ramen noodles. She has just one word: "Delicious!"

And for dessert? Karin Van Dyke ’78 attended Tech before the days of microwaves in rooms, so she and her friends had to get extra creative in indulging a sweet tooth.

"We used the little Farber electric hot pots to cook up Nestle cocoa drink mixes—European blend," Karin says. "We dipped cinnamon graham crackers. It was the perfect dessert."

Every savory meal deserves a sweet ending.

Michigan Technological University is a public research university, home to more than 7,000 students from 54 countries. Founded in 1885, the University offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, and social sciences. Our campus in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula overlooks the Keweenaw Waterway and is just a few miles from Lake Superior.