Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Finals Food

Finals week. It's a time of dread for most college students, a period of cramming, sleepless nights, endless rounds of coffee, and meals of limp cafeteria french fries.

For us Parsons students, of course, it's nothing of the sort. All-nighters are a normal part of our weekly routine. Most of us count ourselves lucky if we manage get to bed at 4 am. It is not unusual to have been awake for a solid 48 hours at a time or more. Our class times run from a minimum of 3 hours long to a maximum of 6 hours, with a mandatory 30 hours of class per week compared to the average college students' 15-18. Our teachers (whom I am convinced the majority of are notorious sadists) are one to every 18 students, which gives them plenty of opportunity to spend special individual time with each student, to instruct us. To critique us. To tell us we're doing it wrong and to do everything over. We spend most of our time outside class buying materials, working on projects, writing essays, and studying for Art History exams. On most days, we are a bundle of jittery nerves held upright only by caffeine and adrenaline, but honor-bound by the snootery that is prevalent in our high-profile school to still look "fierce", to not show what a mess we are, to trek the mile to class, carrying our huge portfolios and tottering in skyscraper heels. This is our regular life, for weeks on end.

Finals are just a step up. Only it's Finals month, not week. One month of shading, vectoring, sawing, photographing, cutting, pasting, and inking. One month of transferring documents from one format to another, trekking to the computer labs at two in the morning to print images due in a few short hours, and redoing spreads when a teacher deems them insufficient. One month of consecutive all-nighters, stress, and emotional breakdowns. No one is forcing us to do this but ourselves, so in a way I suppose only we are to blame. We put our time and energy and (no drama here, sleep deprivation is serious) health on the line to achieve our dreams and goals. And because of this, I can confidently say that a student at Parsons works just as hard, if not more, than any average student at a "regular" college.

Which is why it so completely galled me when I confided in a friend who attended a "normal" college how completely exhausted I was, and received the incredulous response "But you're in art school!"

Excuse me?

The voice in my head bordered on hysteria. I'm sure if he had said that to my face, I would have hit him. I was speechless with indignant shock for a good few minutes. I wanted to scream--and not just at him, but at all the people I've encountered who'd said "Oh, you go to art school? That must be fun!" I wanted to shriek "Just because I go to art school does not mean I sit around doodling rainbows and unicorns all day long!" I could hear the little, broken, emo-kid wail in my mind "No one understands meeeee!" I should have let him have it. I didn't. But at least now you know why I've been so absent, so woefully negligent for the past...months?

It's almost over. Only five more days of torture (and I do mean torture, because I literally cannot conceive of how I will finish all that needs finishing in five days. Which is why I am writing this post, to ease my quiet panicking.) before I pack up and leave NYC, a city which I have grown to completely love, but haven't had time to enjoy.

And with that little bit of martyristic prattle aside, we can get on to the food bits of this post.

I'll be honest, I haven't really been cooking much lately. Aside from during a visit by The Boyfriend over his spring break (tomato soup, grilled cheese, potato salad, lemon chicken, fried rice. In rotation. The Boyfriend is not an adventurous eater), and a last-minute catering gig for a party which I will eventually recreate and blog, I've been throwing meals haphazardly together and subsisting off the generosity of my classmates' huge school meal plans. And here are the results--for the most part, not bad, if a bit (alright, a lot) odd.

Bowl of macaroni with tomato sauce and mushrooms. Looks a bit chunky, because instead of simply pouring the tomato sauce on the drained pasta I stir-fried the whole lot. It made the taste heartier, and better. That pink sausage in the corner there is my finger.

Mushroom bruschetta. Essentially mushrooms, onions, and chives sauteed in a lot of butter, and placed upon toast fried in a frying pan with (you guessed it) more butter. It was heaven. Although The Boyfriend will surely disagree.

A bento box I brought to class, with leftover salmon, steamed rice, grape tomatoes, and broccoli and asparagus I blanched in the microwave with my mom's Pyrex measuring cup.

Another bento, in my new special onigiri bento box (I am slightly addicted to buying bento boxes and supplies--I now have 3, as well as a whole stash of little picks and bottles). This one had onigiri, grape tomatoes, a boiled egg, and apple bunnies. The apple bunnies were surprisingly hard to make! There are only two because I wrecked the rest of the apple with my failed bunny attempts.

My first-ever wild salmon filet. The farmed stuff will forever suck in comparison. Totally worth the $6.88. Drizzled in a little lemon juice with salt & pepper, I picked it apart with my fingers and annoyed The Boyfriend with my rapturous texted comments. I have to note that the color was amazing. I had no idea "real" salmon was supposed to look like that--this photo is completely unedited!

Fried potato and onion. This was just because I realized I had a huge sack of potatoes and onions in the fridge. A delicious carb overload paired with rice.

Lemon chicken. I really will have to give a detailed recipe on this eventually, because I've altered it so much since the first time I made it.

There is no name for this dish. It's a bizarre combination of grits, butter, and peas, topped with tobiko (flying fish roe). Comfort food. It sure photographed well in my desk lighting.

Chicken-veggie soup. I had no noodles, so instead I substituted more peas, more carrots, more celery. I stir-fried everything, first the chicken, and then the vegetables, along with some diced spring onions, and then tossed everything into a cup and a half of boiling water and simmered for a few minutes. It was delicious.

Sometimes I really believe that food is the only thing keeping me sane through all this. No matter what anyone says, dieters, health nuts, whatever, there are inherently good feelings associated with food, with the act of eating. And in the middle of everything right now, it's so good to sit down for a few minutes and eat something.

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