I first met Marshall in Fitch House’s basement when he was brewing a cranberry concoction. I later found out that he was my suitemate’s lab partner. I learned more about him and his various obsessions when I got to sit in on numerous conversations about rocks, rivers and tubs of peanut butter.
Marshall, I always see you working on geoscience projects in Goodrich! Can you tell me a little about that?
Yes, I’m a geos [geosciences] kid now. I picked it up last semester after taking one geos course. I am still a physics major, and I was previously an [environmental studies] major, but the geos major is just much more fun. You get to go outside sometimes for a long, long time on Sunday mornings in freezing cold rivers. I like to call my major “rocks and rockets.”
Tell me about some of your food obsessions.
Oh boy. Well, I guess my big one was freshman year where I really rallied hard to get peanut butter. I tried to take one of those large tubs from Mission and walk out with it because I didn’t understand the rules of the dining halls at the time. So I tried to walk up the stairs and they were like, “You can’t take that.” So I put it back. I started sending some emails to dining services about how I could acquire my own peanut butter. Next thing I know, within two weeks, I’m meeting with the head of dining services regarding my peanut butter usage. A lot of stuff happens, and they put a jar of peanut butter for me in the fridge in the back of Paresky that I could go to any time. They also just gave me jars of peanut butter – like the head chef here pretty much walked me to the basement of Paresky and handed me jars of peanut butter. Last year, I was meeting with dining services again for a completely different thing, and they remembered me as “the peanut butter kid.” They didn’t remember my name; they just knew I was “the peanut butter kid.” So that one really stuck with me. Other than that, I have my food Twitter. I don’t know if there’s really any obsession here. I have a lot of food restrictions – I’m celiac and lactose intolerant and vegetarian – and so that kind of requires you to get creative with your food. Especially when I’m home, I just have base supplies of bean and corn, and I just need to put those in different ways. Those are most of my “Eat Marshall Eat” [Twitter account] creations.
Don’t you have a listserv dedicated to nuts?
It started my freshman year, where I had a lot of things that I wanted to send out in email chains because I couldn’t text stuff quick enough. And on study breaks you check your email, and the next thing you know you’re writing an email. I realized that it’s really easy to just email and ask for a listserv. Next thing I know, I have a listserv. I think the description is like, “a discussion thread for trees, shrubs and other related matters.” But I don’t think we’ve ever talked about trees or shrubs. The first post was nuts. I sent a lot of links to nut oils. But since then, the conversations vary. It’s usually just when I find something interesting or exciting, I send it. When I got that video from Maud on Mountain Day, I sent that there because I didn’t know where else to post it. I sometimes just send updates when I get bored in the library. Last year, I sent a tea request where I was working in the library for like three days straight, and I asked people to just bring me tea, and within a day I had like 30 packets of tea. It was great.
That’s a great group of people. And Maud sent you a video?
Because I was convinced it was Mountain Day, I stopped doing my work and went to Sawyer to pester people and make them stop doing their work. There I was typing away, and I was like, “How do I spend this time fruitfully?” And I was reminiscing and looking at Adam Falk’s videos. Well, Ari [Ball-Burack ’19]’s remix video of Adam Falk. I was trying to find the original, and the original doesn’t exist anymore because they took it down from the president’s page. And so the “mountains greet us in their sun-dappled splendor” doesn’t exist anymore. I was, you know, heartbroken. This cultural institution is just, you know, vanished. So I emailed Maud with a lengthy email pleading and praying for her to make a similar or equivalent video the morning of Mountain Day when she woke up, in her kitchen preferably, because that’s where Adam Falk did his. And I wake up at 6:30 a.m. to this seven second video from Maud just wishing me a happy mountain day, and I was just dumbfounded.
You also hold some uncontested world records?
They are contested. [Laughs.] So, I have the fastest 200-meter race without taking a breath, or I guess, while holding my breath. There’s one other video on YouTube which contests it, but it’s this 60 maybe 70-year-old guy just trucking around the track in like a solid 50 seconds, which when you consider it, that’s a long time to hold your breath. So props to him, but I did him one better, and no one has topped me yet, so I hold the world record at this point. Another one was where I challenged Ian Mook [’18] last year. We were eating oranges, and I was trying to scarf it down in one bite, and then I recorded it and posted it. If you look on YouTube, there’s no faster time of someone eating an orange. Yeah, it’s a “world record.”
I’ve heard that you make soap in your free time. How does that work?
I have a lot of hobbies. I pick up hobbies quick and drop them quicker. So last year, I got into soap making – I think I just needed soap at that point – but it turns out, it’s really easy to make soap. You just mix a bunch of oil with lye and within six weeks you have soap. But the issue is I was funding all of this on my TA pay check. I was a full-time TA at the time, but I couldn’t, you know, spend it all on soap. I spent 10- to 20-dollars a week on soap materials, and eight weeks into the process, I’ve amassed two boxes worth of soap oils and fragrances and weird things like gloves and goggles and lye and Pyrex mixing bowls and IR [infrared] thermometers. So, I made soap.
And you would say this is a better alternative than going to Stop & Shop?
[Laughs.] I don’t gain efficiency, and I’m not saving money. This is really expensive soap when you consider labor costs and all that. It’s also not great soap either; you know, it smells like rest-stop bathrooms and there’s not much to it. But it works!
Aside from soap, are you experimenting with anything else at the moment?
I got a scoby last night. It’s a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast. It’s what you use to make kombucha. I can make homemade kombucha now. I did it in like eighth grade where I made one batch of kombucha, and then my scoby died. [Laughs.] I’m looking to get restarted.
Before we end, you’ve been reading Harry Potter in front of Paresky lately. What do you enjoy about it?
What a wholesome question. This is somewhat tied to my YouTube channel, but I really like doing things for a long period of time. I’ve read an entire book in one sitting on livestream before just like in my basement. I read The Time Machine by H.G. Wells for just four and a half hours, and it’s such a different experience than just reading a book. And then I’m part of this new group now which plans fun things – WAFFLES [Williams Anarchists for Fun and Lighthearted Surprises]. One of the ideas was to read Harry Potter out loud, and I quickly hopped on it. It kind of feels like you’re a really good storyteller and you don’t need to come up with the story. It’s all the perks of storytelling, and you’re guaranteed that it’s good, because it’s Harry Potter.
Which Hogwarts house do you identify with?
Hufflepuff and Slytherin are diametrically opposed, but if you could draw a small circle between the two, that’s where I would be.