By Connie Yan

What's Your Soul Sandwich?

“Annenberg’s food today is just so awful!” countless people told me time and time again last year as we, the 1,600 Harvard freshmen, ate together in one gigantic dining hall.
By Zoe A. Kessler

“Annenberg’s food today is just so awful!” countless people told me time and time again last year as we, the 1,600 Harvard freshmen, ate together in one gigantic dining hall. Poorly fried eggs, lack of variety, and an absence of Fruit Loops were just some of the complaints I heard. Now that my class has moved on to upperclassmen dining, with its more manageable cafeterias, I have heard less whining. All the same, sweet satisfaction is not something I often find amongst my peers while we eat in one of the 12 upperclassmen House serveries Harvard provides. But maybe the problem is a frame of mind more than it is the tastes of our tongues.

I was luckily born without a single food allergy. Neither nuts, shellfish, nor soy can hold me back from gorging myself when the time calls. And I would never be crazy and limit myself to eating only vegetables or, god forbid, avoiding animal products. Nope. Never. I am a carnivore through and through.

And so, given these characteristics, is it really fair for me to ever complain about the food Harvard cooks? Should I really tell myself, well, it’s finals season, so I deserve better? No. But I am not here to criticize food complaints, for, as a foodie who has devotedly watched four seasons of “Chopped”, several “Next Iron Chef” competitions, and every single “Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations” episode ever produced, I completely understand. I simply think that the case of food reflects an overall dilemma that permeates our chaotic

lives: We are too stressed to appreciate what is here, and too busy to allow ourselves to be creative.
Two weeks ago, Business Insider published article entitled “19 Incredibly Impressive Students at Harvard.” Do not get me wrong. Every person on that list was incredibly impressive. But during discussions with my peers, the conclusion I most commonly heard was that the recognized students were also, paradoxically, incredibly standard. My point is not to discredit those who were awarded, but simply to point to the fact that their hectic schedules are the norm for nearly all Harvard students. Without a free moment to settle and relax, how can we objectively appreciate what is actually good? I speak not only to the dining food (don’t forget about our fantastic Veritaffles!) but also to our student body, our fantastic faculty, and even to our beautiful grounds. There are a lot of great things about Harvard, but I know all too well how easy it is to forget about them when we have no time.

Perhaps another issue with the food stems from a busyness that prevents us from being creative. When I enter the dining hall, the natural thing I do is scan the hot food options and then perhaps wander to the grill. Before club squash practice, I always go for pasta and bread, in the morning I consistently choose oatmeal, and lunch is always a toss-up. Maybe what I and others who find the food unsatisfactory at times really need to do is relax and ask ourselves, “What is my soul sandwich?”

As I sat outside the other day with three friends and our lunches on the Quad lawn, one friend happily enjoyed a sensational sandwich composed of a french roll, smoked turkey, melted pepper-jack cheese, lettuce, and Dijon mustard—all toasted to a beautiful brown. Our friend was satisfied with his meal, and we teased that he could sell it for $10 had he been in a gourmet shop. We laughed and admired his meal, but underlying his accomplishment was the fact that he managed to clear his mind and allow creativity to flow, finding his personal soul sandwich at last.

With all of this advice, I do not wish to undermine legitimate food restraints such as allergies or kosher dining. I merely think that all the meals, like our time at Harvard, would be further enjoyed if we took the time to appreciate what we have, and allowed our creativity to flow.

Zoe A. Kessler ’17 is a sophomore in Cabot House. She loves talking about food but she loves free food more, so feel free to take her out to dinner in the Square.