Ballin’ on a Budget: How food in college can become a social experience

Food columnist Alycia Washington reminisces about her freshman culinary memories.

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Let’s be honest: Dining hall food here at MU doesn’t exactly scream “home-cooked meal.” For me, it screeched “Freshman 15” almost every time I swiped my card during my first year. Although the dining halls don’t promote the healthiest lifestyle, they do create a sense of home for students.

When I lived at home, I didn’t necessarily cherish the meals I shared with my family. Naturally, because I wasn't very open to the social aspect of food at home, I didn’t come to the realization that it existed until I started my freshman year of college. This is due to the fact that a social experience is created when you eat in college because a majority of your meals are shared with friends. Even just sitting with my friends from home reminiscing about school and the “struggle meals” we ate showcases the social aspect of food.

When I sat and thought about my freshman year, I noticed a common trend during my reflection: food. As I scrolled through my Instagram profile, I came across countless photos filled with memories of good times with friends. Colorful veggie tacos from Cafe Berlin and savory ahi tuna burgers from Room 38 can be seen on my timeline, both associated with a distinct memory. Flashbacks of late night Baja runs and movie nights filled with Insomnia and laughter also flashed through my mind. I came to the conclusion that food is a social experience.

Freshman year is not only filled with trials and tribulations, but it’s also a time when you have the opportunity to find yourself. My freshman year helped me come to the realization that I wanted to expand on my love for food in a way that would also let me tap into my passion for journalism and social media. Even though my bank account was taking a major toll during my “trials and tribulations,” my heart was extremely happy. I loved walking downtown aimlessly with my friends, while snapping pics of our meals and posting them on my social media.

My advice to freshmen is to not be afraid to experience what Columbia has to offer. Although the university is the heart and soul of the town, there are plenty of other places of interest. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t eat at the dining halls, because let’s be honest: We all are broke and can’t afford to eat out very often.

But I do challenge you to go out and explore downtown Columbia with a group of friends. Stop by Lakota Coffee and get an iced pumpkin chai, or go by Room 38 and share an appetizer. Food is only a social experience if you make it one, so I encourage everyone to try their best to make it so.

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