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Making the New Normal Feel like Home: Our Favorite Comfort Foods

Dalgona coffee, banana bread, sourdough… The list of quarantine food bakes goes on and on. While cooped up in family homes, many students spent more time cooking and baking, filling up free time with time in the kitchen. I know I, for one, turned to cooking as a stress reliever, whipping away cream for the now infamous Tik Tok dalgona coffee like there was no tomorrow. But as the summer ended (and the uncertainties didn’t) those of us who made it back to New York City, whether in dorms or not, had to somehow adapt once again to a new college life.

So what are people cooking now that we have to juggle school, a social life, pandemic woes, and feeding ourselves all at once?

Sean Nesmith - Accomplishment of the Day

After moving back to New York for school, Sean Nesmith, has taken to transforming his favorite take-out staple to an at-home meal. A junior studying International Relations and Public Policy in CAS, he makes sure to separate some time out of his busy schedule to cook breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Whatever is left, he says, becomes his next meal.

As a big fan of Chinese food, Nesmith relied on his local Chinese restaurant in Atlanta, Georgia, during quarantine. “I think I ended up ordering it almost 5 times a week,” Nesmith says. But what was good for the soul wasn’t so good for the wallet - the expense of eating out 5 times a week surely adds up.

Now in school, with classes and a budget to stick to, he’s turned to every NYU student's favorite grocery stores, Trader Joe’s, to recreate his comfort food staple: orange chicken with broccoli and rice. The recipe includes heating up the frozen TJ’s Orange Chicken and white microwavable rice. The unsung hero of the dish? Pan-fried broccoli. Tossed into the pan with butter, salt, garlic powder and chilli powder, the greens in his dish not only bring color and nutritional value, but also taste.

“You can’t win them all,” he laughs. And it’s true - part of being a student cook, especially one while juggling school, work, internships, and the constant feeling of impending doom, is taking the shortcuts when we need them. Not to feel less than perfect, but to feel, and act normal.

After cooking, plating, and a mandatory “phone-eats-first” picture for his instagram, Nesmith enjoys his lunch (or dinner) and then starts placing whatever is leftovers in tupperware, ready for his next meal.

“There’s something about leftovers that also feels comforting,” he adds.

As he cleans up, he feels a sense of satisfaction not only from not spending money on food, but also for accomplishing something during the day. “I feel like I just did something with my day, you know?” he adds.

Lucciana Pascual - Comfort Food at Home for When You’re Sick for Elsewhere

Staying home in Nicaragua for the fall semester, Lucciana Pascual has been using food as a way to reconnect with her friends in New York. A Film and TV junior at Tisch, she’s been completing her academic semester from her home in Managua, Nicaragua. Despite being a couple of thousand miles away from her New York circle, Pascual has tried her best at re-creating the memories so deeply tied to the big city. From Kimmel salads, to at-home 's'mores and home made Talenti ice cream, recreating the foods associated with her college career have brought a slice of New York back home.

Her dining hall favorite? A Kimmel salmon salad. “I used to have weekly Monday lunches with my friends at Kimmel, and I’d always get the same salad. Now, it’s become a ritual at home. I’ll sit in my dining room facing the window and the sun will be shining on my face,” she says.

Pascual starts her at-home Kimmel salad with an iceberg lettuce and spinach base. Then she adds cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, some grilled salmon, and kalamata olives before seasoning with salt, pepper, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese.

The finishing touch? Throw everything into a tupperware, shake, and enjoy!

Dylan Liang - Time for Experimenting 

It’s either all or nothing with Dylan Liang. A senior at CAS studying International Relations, Liang’s ultimate comfort food is simple egg and tomato stir-fry served over rice. A reminder of his mom’s cooking, the creamy stir-fry is incredibly easy to make and hits all the marks.

“It’s simple, comforting, you know,” he says, “and it has a lot of protein!”

But on the days that he has a little bit more time, Liang likes to splurge. Just this past weekend he embarked on a pasta-making adventure by himself. Inspired by the bag of flour sitting in his pantry, he decided to follow a Tasty recipe and make his own home made pasta. While usually he’ll keep it simple – salt, pepper, and marinara sauce – he recently decided to step out of his comfort zone.

After trying out Tasty’s chicken and mushroom pasta, he knew he had to mesh the two. Fresh pasta, sauteed mushrooms, some chicken broth, all mixed in one pot and served together for a “treat-yourself” kind of night.

The final product? “A pasta love story,” he says, documenting the process on his instagram.

Not all of us have the time Liang has to make pasta from scratch. But we do what we can to make those foods that make us smile wherever we may be. For those of us that are not in New York, comfort food means NYC. But at the end of the day, our agency over the food we eat - whether it be takeout or a home cooked meal, is just one step closer to independence, and every college student’s worst nightmare: adulthood.


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