Before college, I ate mostly Chinese food that my mom cooked (and still wish I could eat that everyday). I also had a great love for pita bread from a Persian/Mediterranean store by my house and Souplantation. When I got to college, I thought about the amazing classes that would take, the friends I would make, and the places I would explore (sorry to not continue the rhymes). One thing I hadn’t thought about was how the foods I would eat would change, and boy did they change!
Freshman year was dining hall food, so I ate a lot of salads and Italian wedding meatball soup. My roommate, Katie, introduced me to oatmeal (which I thought was for old people and had previously called oldmeal). In the usual late-for-class fashion, I would microwave instant oatmeal every morning and eat it on the way walking to class. For lunch, I would eat a chicken wrap from Qualcomm, one of the places on campus that took meal points. Another floormate, Abbey, introduced me to farmer’s markets. The only time I had been to farmer’s markets before were when my parents and I were travelling in Canada and stumbled across one. I didn’t know carrots and tomatoes could be amazing.
Sophomore year I moved into a house with some of my friends. I think of this year as the year I came to like Mexican food. I don’t think I ever had a taco or burrito before. Or used an oven. Or dishwasher.
During Sophomore year, I developed an affinity for roasted vegetables (So easy! So delicious! So healthy! So affordable!) I also went grocery shopping at Trader Joe’s for the first time in my life (I had only gone there to buy dessert before, which is, let’s be honest, something I still do).
In the Spring semester, I took a class called Edible Education, which introduced a lot of new ideas to me about where food comes from and the politics of food (and why we should care). Alice Waters was one of the guest speakers and it so happened that one of my high school friends at Berkeley had wanted to go to Chez Panisse. We went during dead week of winter semester and it was probably the most beautiful meal I’ve had. It changed the way I thought about bread and butter.
Junior year, following my new taste for bread and butter, I studied abroad in Lyon, which is known as the capital of food in France. The homestay family I stayed with had some familiar and some unfamiliar eating habits that I learned to adapt to. I feel like they expected me to be a bit squeamish about some French foods like Andouillette. However, I was a good match for Lyonnaise food, having previously dined on a range of “strange” foods (e.g. rabbit, snake, chicken feet, etc.). It was fun to be in a city that was enthusiastic about food, almost to an obsessive degree.
My homestay family was a typical family in that they would cook most times, eat pre-prepared food other times, and eat out occasionally. After every meal, they would eat yogurt or cheese, but somehow this yogurt and cheese tasted better than any other yogurt or cheese I’ve had (how?!). I noticed that even though sometimes they were buying cheap meals from Simply Market (think of it like a smaller version of Safeway on College Ave. in Berkeley, before they remodeled it), they would always buy the best honey (from a local beekeeper) and cheese (from the Mons counter in Les Halles de Lyon). In the same way that capsule wardrobes are all the rage now, my French homestay family inspired me to build a “capsule pantry.”
Before I knew it, it was my senior year of college. To be honest, I had to look at my photos to see what kinds of food I ate because even though this is the most recent year of college, I seem to have forgotten everything. I think this is partly because the earlier years were more formative and by senior year, I pretty much had found my groove food-wise. One thing I do recall is that I ate at the cafe at the business school quite often because I worked in one of the buildings for part of the year. I also started eating eggs and liking breakfast which previously had been my least favorite meal of the day. Big changes, I know.
Now that I am no longer stressed about classes, I can look back and reminisce on all the cool experiences that came out of my years at Berkeley, including how my diet has completely changed! Having the chance to talk, live, and eat with so many different people did a good job of opening my mind to different types of food which, looking back on it, was part of the whole learning experience.
A potluck my housemates and I had. We each made a dish that was a family favorite. 🙂