Posts tagged food
I thought I knew college-student desperation.
Listening to Emerson, Lake, & Palmer’s Pictures at an Exhibition at 3 in the morning to drown out the drunken debauchery going on outside your walls–that’s desperation. Or getting to the library at 7:30AM because that’s the only way to guarantee a free printer.
But now, after a stressful week of essays galore, I have experienced collegiate desperation in an entirely new way.
Turns out it tastes a lot like the spinners from the Ivy Room.
That’s not a jab at the quality of the Ivy Room spinners (which, in case you didn’t know, are gigantic burrito-like creations stuffed with pretty much anything imaginable). Popular as they are, I’ve never actually had one during my time at Cornell: when I go to the Mexican station, I always order quesadillas (against my better judgment–those dudes are expensive!).
Yet since I’ve never encountered spinners outside of the Ivy Room (and people dear to my heart seem to love the things), they rather epitomize Cornell for me. And as I’ve been feeling homesick (college-sick?) for my Ithaca life, I thought cooking my own spinners might be a comfort.
There are a lot of things that Cornellians–myself included–take for granted when they’re, you know, actually in Ithaca. And it’s not just the big stuff (e.g. Mexican food and the ability to earn money or take more than three classes): unsurprisingly, the hardest part of studying abroad is adapting to those weird little details that ripple out like the proverbial chaotic butterfly.
So if you’re at Cornell and feeling down, rejoice! You, at least, have the following privileges:
Libraries and computer labs everywhere.
Tuesday, March 12. 16:10 PM. The University of Edinburgh Main Library.
I’m hunched over in an awkward round chair, writing my essay on ‘morbid tourism’ and medieval Roman travel guidebooks (told you I could make those boring essay questions interesting!).
Then it happens.
Thanks to years of false alarms in dorms, hearing a fire alarm gives me a quasi-Pavlovian response of mild annoyance instead of fear. Still, I collect my things and exit the building. A loud woman with a megaphone urges all students to ”keep moving down into the courtyard!” Her careful Scottish vowels make her shouts unfortunately comical.
Forty minutes in the cold Edinburgh air. Forty minutes until the signal is given.
And anarchy reigns supreme once more.
What followed was basically the Battle of Helm’s Deep, except with hundreds of grumpy uni students instead of orcs.
If there’s trouble in Olin, Cornellians can just pop over to Uris to finish their work. Even if Uris, too, is affected by these theoretical flames, there are at least ten other places to study and print on campus. Edinburgh has a couple of libraries, true, but only one with significant computer labs.
Still, how could so many people possibly have work due at the same time? Well, you wouldn’t understand, readers, since…
Cornell has no ‘essay week.’
Sure, sometimes it seems like our profs are conspiring against us, but there’s usually some variation in each individual college’s deadlines.
In Edinburgh, essays have their own special celebration. Classes are cancelled, and everyone has papers due. Nice idea, maybe, but this means every single orc–I mean, student–out there needs to use the printers. At the same time.
Better hope those fire alarms don’t go off, right?
And even if you’re not relaxing in your lovely Cornell libraries, you still have the added advantage of…
One word: Wegmans.
Actually, I could’ve just as easily said ‘Target’ up there. That’s how challenging my shopping situation is. Wegmans is comprehensive, and even Target, for all its flaws, tends to carry most major items. (Hey, they sell my Icelandic yoghurt, so that’s good enough for me!)
There are grocery stories here that do carry most necessities, but some of it is ridiculously expensive. And, call me crazy, but I’m not going to buy something for £5 at Tesco that’s half the price elsewhere.
As a result, I visit about five different supermarkets to fulfill my shopping needs. Neurotic? Maybe. But by shopping at Lidl (the German import store) and the severely underrated Maqbool’s (a Indian and Middle Eastern store), I can at least try to beat the high Scottish prices while getting exposed to some cool new brands.
Walking to all these stores is especially tricky, though: maybe even harder than hopping on the TCAT. After all…
‘No winter maintenance’? You guys ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
Cornell’s winter resilience impresses (and alarms) me. Even if there’s enough snow to merit cancelling morning classes, things are usually up and running by about 11. Why?
Because our winter maintenance system is amazing. Edinburgh received what my Ithacan self would call a ‘dusting’ of snow earlier in the week, and I thought the entire city might shut down. Cars inched along the icy roads. The sidewalk connecting my building to the main road looked like the wall of a glacier. We may gripe about missing out on a day off from classes back in the States, but at least our system helps more people get to work and school safely.
Bonus words of wisdom: show RedRover some love!
Do you know how many times I’ve had to reconnect my annoyingly poor wireless during the process of writing this post? Or how frequently my family’s faces are transformed into hideous pixellated blobs over Skype? KeyCom Wireless, I know you’re listening, and you should know: Cornell does it better.
(Of course, using my Internet connection to openly criticize it is probably not so wise. If I should mysteriously vanish after writing this post…well, you know who to blame.)
Let me put it this way: as much confidence I claim to have in my modest cooking abilities, part of me secretly dreaded that I would spend this Thanksgiving feasting on jelly beans, buttered toast, and popcorn à la Chef Snoopy.
Cooking an entire Thanksgiving dinner–even when blessed with talented co-chef like mine–is naturally a little intimidating. I’ve spent the past two Thanksgivings away from home, reveling in the kindness of other families willing to temporarily adopt me from the holiday season, so the prospect of cooking some of the traditional Sarr favorites this year was immensely appealing. But could we pull it off?
Answer, in short: yes.
The meal in question took place at my beau’s off-campus apartment, a charming forest-ish home with a kitchen slightly more spacious than your average dorm’s. We started the bulk of our cooking at around noon yesterday (with the exception of a single pumpkin pie baked on Wednesday evening) and finished up a little after 4, just in time to go fetch the guest of honor: my fellow far-away-from-home Hawai’i–>Cornell speech sister, a freshman in Arts & Sciences.
The menu, in case you’re curious, was completely vegetarian, and consisted of butternut squash lasagna (this recipe sans hazelnuts, since those dudes are apparently impossible to find at Wegmans), homemade cranberry sauce (fresh cranberries cooked in a blend of orange and cranberry juice), “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Betty Crocker!” dinner rolls, and rutabaga (which I’d never before tried) to replace the mashed potatoes (which I traditionally don’t care for).
Ironically, the territory I thought I knew best (pie-making) turned out to be my greatest weakness. The apple pie ended up being just a bunch of apple filling in a crust (which was still delicious, though less aesthetically appealing), while the cranberry sauce and rutabaga were surprisingly amazing. My skilled lasagna chef(/expert butternut squash peeler) certainly produced a main dish to rival any stuffed bird.
In the spirit of post-Thanksgiving madness, I followed today’s breakfast of leftover pie with a quick jaunt to the Ithaca Mall on a single Black Friday mission–to purchase a purple peacoat from Old Navy, discounted to a tolerable $19. A miraculous computer error resulted in the store manager eventually telling me to take the coat for free in recompense for the ring-up mishaps. Although I’m a little suspicious that I was secretly being filmed by some TV reality show that specializes in mocking the incredulous faces of poor college students when they encounter magical complimentary items, I’m in love with my coat and glad to have a few extra dollars to save for Scotland adventures. Perfect end to a great Thanksgiving (or excellent beginning to the second half of my brief pre-exams break)? I’d say so.
Pop sensation Rebecca Black did get one thing wrong: sometimes, I am not looking forward to the weekend.
It’s not that the idea of two days off (except, let’s get real: what with rehearsals, my internship, babysitting, and writing, when do I ever have an actual day off?) isn’t appealing to me. Rather, Friday marks the beginning of a time fraught with temptation and danger.
I always do my shopping on Sunday morning, and I recommend it: Sunday re-stocking means enough food to get through a week’s worth of crazy school nights. By Friday, though, Old Mother Hubbard’s cupboard is probably less bare than mine. Somehow, all the fun foodstuffs I bought at the beginning of the week have disappeared, leaving me with nothing more than, for example, couscous (but no lentils, beans or anything with which to top it), tomato sauce (but no pasta), and tortillas (but no cheese).
During lean times like these–when the urge to call up Taste of Thai Express becomes almost unbearable–I almost miss being on the meal plan. In moderation, Cornell Dining can be absolutely brilliant. So, in order to make up for my crueler posts from yesteryear in regards to our on-campus dining program, here’s a list of five things that actually make a meal plan worthwhile.
(Not that I regret leaving mine behind, though. Just sayin’.)
5. Fancy dinners on the meal plan cost the same* as normal ones.
(*…which, when you do the math, is still overpriced, but I digress. That way lies negativity. )
Essentially, a Cornellian on a meal plan can go check out the special Indian dinner or Pumpkin Night or whatever beautiful madness the staff have cooked up without having to pay any extra money.
On the other hand, I would be expected to dole out upwards of $18 if I wanted to partake of these special feasts.
4. Dining together = the new ‘hanging out.’
Back in my sophomore year, my BFFs and I would frequently meet up for meals, which provided us with a good opportunity to catch up, giggle maniacally, and talk about recent episodes of My Little Pony.
Though I still see most of my friends for rehearsal and other a cappella-related activities, I have to admit that I’m spending less time being social because of my off-the-meal-plan status.
Still, being a solo diner has its perks. The process of bundling up, trekking to a dining hall, finding a table, and having a conversation with a friend while eating might be nice, but it does take a lot longer than stir-frying some tofu and sitting down in front of your homework. Productivity during dinnertime also gives me more of a chance to see my friends during weekends!
3. Speaking of stir-fry…
…the Risley Dining stir-fry bar alone is worth paying the exorbitant cost for admittance into the dining hall. Patrons can choose from a wide variety of stir-fry add-ons, including water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, tofu, spinach, pineapple–I have to stop or else I’ll get hungry and desperate and will probably end up dropping $13 at RisDining tonight, but you get the idea.
2. Dining halls provide the best people-watching on campus.
Some young social anthropologists (read: shy nerds) enjoy attending parties to observe the various bizarre rituals of the human species, but since I’m not quite ready for that sort of fieldwork, dining out offers the next best option. It’s impossible to eat in a dining hall without overhearing at least one ridiculous conversation.
Sometimes, an observer can even draw extensive conclusions about the herding tendencies of sororities or other organizations–I never thought I’d see ten girls wearing matching black boots, leggings, and pinnies in one place before, but there you go. Adding it to the case study for sure.
1. Unlimited soft-serve ice cream.
I don’t think I even need to explain this one. Sure, the Cornell ice cream–I mean, the stuff we bought from Perry’s–is pretty good, but nothing beats simple vanilla and chocolate swirl with sprinkles.
(Of course, the fact that I could happily eat soft-serve for dessert every single night is probably the best testament to why it’s good that I’m off the meal plan.)
Yo, current Cornellians: what do you like best (or hate most) about our lovely dining system? Leave a comment to let me know!
Glass and I have never exactly been the best of friends.*
*I’m talking about the material, not the composer–although he and I aren’t on the greatest terms either.
Back in ninth grade (a.k.a. the first time I was a freshman), I had this ingeniusly pre-hipster idea of keeping a glass jar in my locker to hold my pencils. Everything was going fine until I made the mistake of mentioning my unique pencil-holder to my future-telling mother. She looked me straight in the eye, summoned her powers of prescience, and said “Keely, that thing’s so going to break.” And a mere five seconds after I clicked open my combination lock before the first bell rang that morning, the jar tumbled to the ground, dying on impact. Try explaining that one to the janitor.
Still, I am hopefully a little older, wiser, and less clumsy these days, so I’ve taken a hint from this article and decided that re-using glass jars might be an eco-friendly way to spice up my lunchbox routine. Though I don’t regret choosing to forgo a meal plan this semester, I miss the appealing presentation of the lunches I used to buy from Cornell’s many a la carte eateries, and perhaps this twee DIY attempt at cute containers will help.
Will I be stuck with a bag full of broken glass Monday afternoon? Or will pre-packing my lunches instead of coming home to make them save me so much time that I miraculously ace my programming exam on Thursday? Place your bets now!
P.S. Here’s one more piece of glass for the jar fans out there. This weekend marked Ithaca’s annual Apple Harvest Festival, and though I won’t blog specifically on that event (I did that last year!), I will mention that I purchased my first-ever jar of apple butter today. Hooray for buying local!
Happy May, folks! With (the terrors of) Slope Day past and finals approaching quickly, I’d say that summer’s well on its way. In celebration of my new class-less state and the excellent weather, I spent several merry hours admiring the natural beauty down by the lake that’s not part of Cornell’s enormous campus.
I’m starting to sound like a college brochure now, so here! Have some pictures instead!
Although the weather was surprisingly cold for such a beautiful sunny day, no summery lunchtime picnic (a quick stop at Wegmans’ Mediterranean Bar provided such nom-essentials as kalamata olives, baba ghanoush, and roasted sun-dried tomates) is complete without ice cream.
Considering its fame, Ithaca’s Purity Ice Cream seemed the logical choice. My family stopped in at this adorable little parlour near the Sciencenter over the summer, and I’ve never run into a Cornellian who’s had anything less than complimentary to say about the place.
Right as I was deciding between Boomberry (a blackberry ice cream with various other fruit-filled treats) and one of many variations on Cookies and Cream, however, the “Allergy Information” sheet hanging near the ordering line revealed a hideous truth:
All Purity brand ice cream flavors contain egg and gelatin.
Now, I’m not a vegan (anymore). I wasn’t bothered by the first part: heck, I expected it! It was the second item in the list that inspired a sudden “I’m going to write an angry blog post about this!”
Maybe it’s just because I’m from Hawai’i (where people think “vegetarian” means “Meat is okay in this food as long as it’s really small and you can’t see it”) but I think Ithaca has a pretty big vegetarian population. That said, why would an ice cream parlour (such an innocent, delightful place, too!) use gelatin in everything?
Non-Purity raspberry sorbet satisfied my ice cream needs in the end, but it is a little unreasonable to make vegetarians choose between Soy Dream or Dreyer’s when their more omnivorous counterparts get to benefit from Purity’s actual flavors.
Okay, quick break from the crankiness. Check out how gorgeous my sorbet was anyway.
This alarming information ultimately sent me into an investigative tizzy. I decided that it was absolutely necessary for me to get the inside scoop on Cornell‘s ice cream.
Sadly, I personally never experienced the joy of real Cornell Dairy ice cream: the dairy itself has been under construction since right before I was a freshman. Cornell’s recent partnership with Perry’s means that, although their flavors are yummy, it’s not quite Big Red authentic.
Of all the quirky Perry’s flavors, though, I’m most obsessed with Berry-Go-Round (blackberry ice cream with a chocolate cookie crumble swirl). My friend and I literally cackle with glee whenever we see one of those tubs of purple ice cream in a dining hall. Could my days of blissfully ignorant Berry-Go-Roundin’ be over?
A little quick internet snooping proved that B-G-R is completely vegetarian. Thank goodness! Purity, shame on you–surely you can find a less weird way of manufacturing your equally delicious flavors. Please?
I may have abandoned my dreams of becoming an anthropology major several semesters ago, but I still know a little something about the origins of mythology. From what I’ve read, it seems that many cultures’ first myths served to explain mysteries such as creation, death, space, and the weather.
Here’s a special Keelyian origin tale for you, then. Floating high up in the Ithaca skies is a chimera of a weather-god: a beast with the wings of a gryphon, the body of an overweight serpent, and the decision-making skills of an inebriated frat boy. This critter is responsible for all the precipitation in Tompkins County, but he’s just not that great at it. Take today, for instance. After last week’s high 80s party times, I woke up to a courtyard filled with several inches of snow. It’s April, Ithaca. What’s your problem?
Unfortunately, that’s not the only type of cold with which I’ve had to deal recently. It’s good to have gallons of tea and soup during such nasty weather, but so far, it seems the most effective medicine for my little sickness is something almost as chilly as the weather outside.
Over the summer, I was lucky enough to inherit a mixing contraption called “The BlendMaster (Junior).” Admittedly, this 90s stick blender got some laughs from my friends, but I’m happy to say that Junior has now officially proved his worth in the realm of dorm-room cuisine!
I started with the raw materials: frozen mangoes, raspberries, and strawberries, layered on top of plain Chobani yogurt. (Fun fact: all trendy college students these days are obsessed with Chobani’s Greek yogurt. It’s sold all over campus! I used to be a member of the Chobani cult, too (gotta love that lemon flavor) until I realized how many grams of sugar are in a single serving. If you eat yogurt on a regular basis, I recommend trying plain with different fun mix-ins instead. Alternatively, Target’s new grocery section now sells skyr, a special Icelandic yogurt that’s literally nothing more than yogurt and fruit. It’s a bit pricey, but worth it.)
The BlendMaster sputtered for a few minutes, and I wondered if I wouldn’t have anything better than a parfait…and then the parfait turned into sorbet…and, finally, perfection!
My days of complaining about Ithaca’s weird lack of smoothie places (is this really just a Hawai’i thing?) are over. You won’t find me paying seven bucks for one of CTB’s pitiful concoctions either–in fact, maybe I can make some quick cash by opening up an underground smoothie business…
Charitable organizations at Cornell have it all worked out. While the average college student certainly doesn’t have an awful lot of money to give away, it’s equally the case that there seems to be nothing the average college student loves more than eating. Therefore, an easy formula for earning a lot of cash for a good cause can be written as
ever-hungry young adults + offer of food = ALL THE DONATIONS.
Naturally, I enjoy contributing to worthy charities as much as the next guy (I mean, as long as the next guy isn’t Ebeneezer Scrooge), but, as a vegetarian, I have to pick and choose my benefit events carefully. This may seem a little silly, but if I’m attending with the expectation of a full meal and end up only able to devour salad and bread, I’d rather just have given the cash as a donation.
It was the critical inclusion of “all vegetarian Indian cuisine” on the poster for Asha Cornell’s recent fundraising meal, then, that convinced me it was worthwhile to trek all the way down to the Commons to attend a $12 dinner. After spending Saturday afternoon playing piano duets with my mentee, I caught the #70 TCAT and rode to the Women’s Community Building on Seneca Street. Though I walked by the WCB every day last year on my way to work, I’d never been inside: unsurprisingly, it’s rather reminiscent of the stereotypical high school gym, albeit cleaner, better lit, and free of pubescent jocks playing dodgeball.
The meal was served buffet-style: diners selected from an almost medievally long table of appealing options. I was a little surprised by the distinct lack of naan bread, but all the other staples of the Indian cuisine I love were present: dal, lassi, better-than-jasmine rice (technically called, in this case, vegetable pulav)…
While I’m still passionately loyal to Honolulu’s Cafe Maharani, of course, the food was rather delicious (on the other hand, I also consider instant lentils fine dining, so take my ratings with the proverbial grain of salt).
As my friend and I finished stuffing ourselves, I leafed through an issue of Compassion, Asha Cornell’s newsletter. Though hearing about recent scandals by supposed “philanthropists” or “activists” like the founder of Invisible Children (and proponent of the rightfully controversial Kony 2012 initiative) or the embezzlin’ Three Cups of Tea guy has made me a little cynical towards charities, Asha Cornell, which describes itself as “a volunteer organization which dedicatedly supports basic educational efforts for underprivileged children in India,” seems fairly legitimate. Cornell’s chapter is under the wider umbrella of the NYC-based Asha program, which also appears to be one of the good guys out there. Check out this chart from Charity Navigator showing where Asha’s money goes if you’re a little wary (consider also that Asha for Education’s leader is apparently not compensated for his work, whereas Invisible Children’s three head honchos are making an epic amount of money every year…and I’ll stop letting my own political opinions color my Cornell blog, sorry!)
If you’d like more information about Asha for Education at Cornell, please visit their website, and I’d also encourage keeping an eye out for any future dinners! I know I will be.
I’ll close with a final equation:
reputable charitable organization + good vegetarian food = one happy, well-fed blogger.
I can still remember the May of 2008–the year when everything changed.
The summer the yogurt people came to town.
Hawai’i is like the youngest sibling in the dharma-esque wheel of hand-me-downs: we always get everything last. To the best of my knowledge, however, the Aloha State was infected with the fast-spreading virus known as self-serve frozen yogurt before anyone else. Though it all started with one little Yogurtland on King Street, nearly every block in downtown Honolulu today has a spot for fans of this cultured dessert (pun most certainly intended). These eateries profit off of the 21st-century obsession with personalization–yogurt-seekers need only grab a cup and start down the line of dispensers and toppings to create their own unique froyo experience.
For some reason, though, the East Coast (by which I mean Ithaca) didn’t really hop on the yogurt bandwagon right away. I often jokingly rant to my friends about Ithaca’s hideous lack of Jamba Juice (Cornell’s cafes think that a “smoothie” means “cold syrup blended with ice”), but the dearth of Yogurtland-clones on the Hill truly created a hole in my heart.
That’s why I thought the appearance of a zany “Yogurt Crazy” sign down in Collegetown was nothing more than an early April Fool’s Day prank. These Mainlanders wouldn’t know yogurt if it gained sentience, grew some bicuspids, and bit them on their East Coaster noses!
I’m proud to announce that Yogurt Crazy has proved its worth. On Saturday, my a cappella group and I were in need of a dessert experience following our post-rehearsal dinner at Cafe Pacific, and, like the addict I am, I eagerly suggested giving this crazy new place a try. There was something so intoxicating about being in the colorful, mod interior of a frozen yogurt shop again: and, best of all, I could pretend I was back in Manoa after a long day at Punahou instead of in college. Homesickness defeated!
Bizarrely enough, many of my fellow singers had never experienced the life-changing self-serve yogurt phenomenon before. Well, college is traditionally a time for initiation into (dangerous) new habits (I know I’ve only recently gained an unhealthy My Little Pony addiction), so for the sake of any Cornellians who don’t understand the insanity of Yogurt Crazy, here are some tips from an old pro.
- Don’t let the self-serve environment make you…well, crazy. They may give you a 16oz cup, but I promise that you’re under absolutely no obligation to fill it all. Back home on the ‘aina (island), one local chain, Menchies, has a little meter printed onto each cup to keep you in check–and all this “healthy” yogurt isn’t going to be that good after all if you reach the “Mix Master” level every time.
- Flavors that have “chocolate” anywhere in the name at all (even if it’s chocolate-chip or mint-chocolate) are typically a disturbing dark brown color. Maybe I’m the only person who finds brown yogurt off-putting, but I recommend you stick with the fruits.
- Speaking of which, fruity flavors are often non-fat and dairy-free (for all you vegans out there). Yogurt Crazy also has a printed sign listing which yogurt flavors are safe for folks with other special dietary needs as well (e.g. gluten free).
- Browse through the toppings before you pile them on! Imagine how terrible it’d be to discover you have no room for gorgeous fresh blackberries because you took too many M&Ms.
According to a Daily Sun article from last fall, there’s been a bit of controversy over the place, which replaced an apparently beloved bar, Johnny O’s. Naysayers in the article allegedly bemoaned the new lack of a “fun place to hang out” (by which I’m assuming they meant a place for bar shenanigans, because what could be more fun than froyo?). Well, I apologize, haters, but us yogurt people are here to stay.