Ephs off 21-meal plan get cooking

Eleanor Lustig ’18 dries her own fruit, such as these apples from Wild Oats Market, in her dehydrator. Photo courtesy of Eleanor Lustig.
Eleanor Lustig ’18 dries her own fruit, such as these apples from Wild Oats Market, in her dehydrator. Photo courtesy of Eleanor Lustig.

Food provides us with an opportunity to make something satisfying in both taste and sense of achievement out of the mundane. Many students choose to stray from the meal plan and take a more independent approach to eating at the College, and some have discovered rewarding aspects of cooking for themselves.

For Eleanor Lustig ’18, cooking is a way to experience her passion for food and get excited about mealtimes.

“I started drying fruit freshman year, honestly as a form of procrastination,” Lustig said. “It’s exciting because you can prepare the fruit and then go to the library for the afternoon knowing that when you finish your work there will be dried fruit waiting for you at home.”

Lustig approaches food like a hobby. While cooking can be a chore for many, for her it is a refreshingly elective activity.

Lustig also views food in a more global context. “I’d say that food is the lens through which I most engage with community and environmental problems and [through which I] feel I can personally make the biggest impact,” she said. “It is also a valuable experience to have a refrigerator of food that you are responsible for consuming before it goes bad.”

In addition to participating in numerous food-centric organizations, including Williams Recovery of All Perishable Surplus and thinkFOOD, cooking for herself is a way for Lustig to take responsibility for what she eats. This may sound simple, but it demonstrates the true value, responsibility and pride that can stem from dropping the meal plan. 

For Matthew Davies ’17, the decision to switch to a lower meal plan was motivated by economic strategizing as well as a desire for greater independence.

“I spend less per meal than I would if I were on the 21 meal plan, and I have control over what it is that I’m eating,” he said. His approach to eating is practical, but by no means apathetic. As a cyclist, his diet directly influences his sense of wellbeing.

“To me, eating is another habit that affects how you feel and how you can perform,” he said.

Davies believes that by cooking for himself, he consumes what he believes are higher quality foods. Purchasing his own ingredients allows him to find what his body truly demands, while providing him with the control to eliminate what it naturally wants to avoid. Rather than a chore, Davies sees cooking as a natural part of his life.

“Food is fuel. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy binging on a pizza from time to time, I’m not only eating pragmatically. But from day to day I see it as a part of my routine that lets me workout, feel well, study, et cetera,” he said.

For Gabby Markel ’17, eating well is essential to maintaining good habits. “Food is indicative of life,” she said.

As a senior at the College, she feels ready to explore the world beyond the purple bubble. Markel also enjoys sharing her views on food with others.

“If I could design a job to do anything, I would go around and help people find more joy in what they were eating,” she said.

Markel’s passion for cooking stems from summers cooking on a boat. Learning to cook for one has been a challenge for her.

Markel’s efforts to bring joy to what she eats also provides a sort of liberation from the negativity of societal norms dictating what people eat and do not eat.

“American food culture is pretty infused with guilt,” she said. Her fascination with food has inspired her to travel around the world and discover the happiness that others derive from food.

“[I want to find out] what people see as joy in their eating experience,” she said.

Despite these accounts of finding oneself through food, diet does not have to be the center of all students’ identities. For some, staying on the full meal plan is the right approach. But, as these students who cook for themselves show, cooking can be exciting and rewarding.

So the next time you’re hungry and out of swipes, grab a friend and go to the market and explore. You just might be surprised with what you find.

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