Friday, September 30, 2011

Materialism


My dad isn't the kind of guy who likes to collect stuff. He'd be happiest if he didn't own anything at all. One day last summer, he explained his minimalism to me. When most people see something desirable, they think, "Wow. There's something attractive. I would be very happy to own that object!" For him, if he sees something desirable, he thinks, "Wow. There's something attractive. I'm happy to know that that object exists." He tries to remind me to be happy in the knowledge that something good exists, so that I don't need to actually buy it. When first offered the opportunity to buy a Chromebook, I desperately wanted to get my hands on one, but he talked me out of it. He reminded me that I can appreciate the existence of Google's creation without actually purchasing a second laptop.

Even though he has talked me out of a Chromebook and many other purchases, in one specific arena, I was never content with just knowing something exists. When it comes to food, I couldn't just see some yummy treat and walk past. I always had the overwhelming urge to stick food in my mouth, like a little kid in a candy shop. The evidence always pointed to me being lactose intolerant and I occasionally thought about becoming a vegetarian, but I always refused to stop eating any type of food. I didn't want to limit my options by going meatless or dairyless, because then what would I do if I saw a really yummy looking cheeseburger? I wouldn't be able to say no. 

A few days ago, I realized that I needed to make a change in my diet. My stomach was constantly hurting due to my switch to dorm food. Something I read recently about gluten-free diets convinced me to give it a try, just to see my stomach's reaction. For a little over two days now, I've been completely gluten- and lactose-free. My stomach's feeling a lot better, but that might just be a placebo. I'm going to keep eating this way for a few weeks and then I'll evaluate my dietary situation. In some sick, twisted way, I hope going gluten-free doesn't help me, because I could really use some cinnamon toast. 

But whether or not I decide to reintroduce gluten into my diet, this diet is forcing me to learn my dad's materialism lecture first hand. Just because I can't personally indulge in a chicken sandwich or spaghetti with meatballs doesn't mean that I can't appreciate the existence of my favorite foods. I can still be a foodie without eating everything in my grasp, and maybe I'll even forgive myself for becoming one of those despised picky eaters. 


So let me sit here and appreciate the existence of this beautiful grilled cheese from Deluxe. I can lean in close to smell the cheddar then wrap my hands around the sandwich to feel the squish of the buttery white bread. I will see and smell and touch this sandwich, but I don't need anything more. I'm content that it exists. 

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Famous



I'm glad that I have friends that will scramble around Manhattan in search of macaroni with me, then pose as hand models. Check it out!


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Time and Tacos

At noon today, under a light drizzle of rain, I ran back from the cafeteria with paper plates precariously stacked. At the bottom was my big mound of salad (romaine with mandarin oranges, cranberries, walnuts, balsamic vinegar and olive oil), followed by a mozzarella and tomato sandwich for my roommate, and then the top plate had a thick slice of lemon pound cake to share for dessert. I carried this treasure to a conference room where I met my roommate, a few friends and a few strangers for a lunchtime workshop on time management. I nibbled my romaine while the first-year dean talked to the roomful of girls about the battle between organization and procrastination. 

I can't stop thinking about the workshop. While I didn't learn any new tricks for saving time or a better way to manage my schedule, we did an exercise in delegating the hours in a week to specific purposes that I can't forget. On a time sheet of a typical week, we shaded in every time commitment. I crossed off the night for sleeping, a few hours for classes, more hours for tutoring, p.e., orchestra rehearsals, meals, and club meetings. We counted up the remaining free hours and I had around fifty hours left between all seven days. Next the dean had us calculate how many hours we should spend on average studying and preparing for class; she said for my courseload, around forty hours is about right. Subtract and you find my remaining unscheduled time to be ten hours per week. I'm allotting myself ten hours a week for practicing cello, doing laundry, writing articles, taking showers, blogging, cleaning my room, cooking, keeping up my journal, going to the gym... 

Is my schedule insane? Clearly. Do I want to change it? Not at all. I don't know why I'm here and I don't know where I'm going, but I like where I am. I think I was born to be a college student. 


P.S. An update on exactly what is filling up my schedule: I'm working on whittling down the list of activities in which I want to participate and at the moment, I think it's down to three. This evening was my first orchestra rehearsal. I had forgotten how wonderful it feels to be a part of something so big and so beautiful. Straight from rehearsal, I ran to join my new friends in the Columbia Culinary Society. I was one of two leaders in a cooking class on making sweet and savory microwaved baked apples in your dorm room. We had a lot of fun playing with flavor combinations. And my third organization is, of course, the Spectator. I'm going to be writing a biweekly blog post comparing dishes from local restaurants, plus if I have time, I'll write additional articles for the daily newspaper. My first Spectrum blog post comparing two taquerias came out today, so check it out!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

What I've Learned

I moved in two weeks ago, and so far I've tried almost every cafeteria on campus and chosen my favorite, I have finished my box of dental floss but haven't had time to buy another, I've worked out at the gym once, I've purchased envelopes and tupperware at the Kmart in the East Village, I've done two loads of laundry, I have strolled around Harlem with some friends, I have spent one sweaty night convinced I would die of strep throat, I've pressed through the crowds of beautiful people on Fashion's Night Out, and I've even sat through three days of classes. I'm learning a lot (mostly people's names) and there's nowhere I'd rather be.


Lesson One: It's good that I brought about fifteen pairs of shoes to school with me, because New York is full of beautiful places to walk. The High Line is a beautifully put together elevated park where you can strong along concrete paths between natural gardens for over a mile. There's even a lawn to lie on while you suck on a popsicle. If you look hard enough, you can find anything you need in the city, even green space.  


Lesson Two: New Yorkers are nicer than they'd like you to believe. No one has laughed at me when I ask for directions to the nearest subway stop or even when I'm on the train in the wrong direction. When I didn't have enough cash to buy macarons at Ruthy's in Chelsea Market, she gave them to me anyway.


Lesson Three: Dorm food isn't as bad as you'd expect. I'm not saying I'd gobble down everything that appears in the dining hall, but there's always something good to eat. Feeding hundreds of girls every day, the kitchen staff know to keep the salad bar fresh and full (you should have seen the riot when the romaine was finished and not refilled for ten whole minutes) and to have plenty of cake.