A lot of things change when one goes to college. Your education
is in your own hands, authority is left at home as is nutritional
oversight, and the need for a cheap source of sustenance quickly
becomes one of your top priorities. What used to be a nice sit down
meal with the family rapidly erodes into dinner on the run.
Exit three-course nutritional meals from mom every night at
Enter whatever has not been sitting around too long to spawn
mold for a timely dinner at 11:30 in the evening.
No longer is the menu extensive or the food presented to you as
long as you show up. Meals become a nuisance, something you have to
do because you’re hungry and not because you’re on a
schedule. Food preparation in college involves the microwave and
not much else. Fine dining turns into the same four or five meals
day in and day out.
The food pyramid of the college student no longer involves
eating multiple servings of grains, vegetables, meats and dairy.
The higher education pyramid becomes shorter and more compact.
Everyone discovers three or four meals with which they can survive
on for a few years. Meals that are cheap, easily cooked and above
all else, not nutritious.
Some people survive off macaroni and cheese and Hamburger
Helper, others sustain themselves with Cup-O-Soup and cereal. My
pyramid was anchored by the vegetable of the Beanie-Weenie, the
meat of the hotdog and capped by the ambiguous Ramen noodle.
All three of these meals are easily cooked in three minutes or
less, eaten on the run and will quickly fall out of favor after
eating them day in and day out for four years.
Although the Boston Baked Bean is a standard at any potluck or
family reunion picnic in America, the side dish completely changes
once you add the weenie. It morphs into an entrée – a
meal. Beanie-Weenie is a cult favorite of a few, but a godsend when
all you have is a fork and a heat source. A borderline vegetable,
with enough fiber for half of your daily allowance, it has the
unique ability to keep you regular and keep you from eating any
other baked beans from the east coast.
Beanie-Weenie only lasted about two years in my diet; it was the
first to go because it was the first to start giving me
stomachaches. I hated to see the marriage of the hot dog and bean
divorce but it had to be; there was no reconciliation with my
The hot dog, low man on the meat totem pole and beloved by the
budget-minded since the dawn of the 20th century, is made up mostly
of all the meat that isn’t used. It’s a processed link
of meat that tastes best over an open flame and conjures up the
worst of the leftover meat smell when zapped in a microwave.
While the hotdog is a summer camping trip necessity, it’s
a processed pariah on when eaten on a daily basis.
The hot dog disguises itself by the ease at which it is cooked
and the fullness it provides; it had the most substance of my
limited food pyramid. Unfortunately, because of over indulgence the
hotdog has now become a once a month treat.
The heartburn it summons would make anyone think twice about
eating more then two in a sitting, let alone doing it three or four
times a week.
For the pinnacle of my pyramid, the staple of all college
students around the country, the meal practically issued to you
when you register for classes, I give you the Ramen noodle.
You would be hard-pressed to find a student at any university
who doesn’t have a block of Ramen noodles somewhere in their
home. Most don’t even know what food group they fall in
– I don’t. At best the Ramen noodle invokes thoughts of
the pinnacle of the food industry – freeze-dried astronaut
food. At worst it provides almost 75 percent of your daily sodium
There are two kinds of Ramen noodle eaters – those that
drain the water out and those that eat it like soup. I was a
drainer. Sometimes when I was really hungry I would eat two
packages at once in a big bowl; that was when I first realized I
had a problem.
At roughly 25 cents per meal it’s easily one of the
cheapest sources of food in America. And it doesn’t really
become a problem when you buy them individually. The problems arise
when you become tempted to buy the whole box. Twenty-four packages
of Ramen noodles for five dollars may seem like a good consumer
purchase, but 24 packages of Ramen noodles is not that great a
In the beginning Ramen noodles masquerade as a warm nutritious
meal, but in the end, they will always become nothing more then a
noodle of foreign origin, a noodle that’ll cause unforgivable
After five years of the college food pyramid sustaining you
through times of economic drought and hunger, there will come a day
when it’s late at night and the glow of the microwave is the
only thing that can be seen, when all you have to choose from is
the same three meals you’ve been eating all week, when you
finally realize the next day you will still be suffering from the
heartburn of your midnight manna.
But I have seen the light; the illumination of my diploma has
shown me the way. I am no longer a prisoner of the same heartburn
causing three meals. I now have branched out into a plethora of
meals, because I finally realized it was the college food pyramid
that was eating me.
Copyright Daily Nebraskan Online