This is my last article. I’ve been writing for the Dining Department for four years now, and, to be perfectly honest, I am not ready to say goodbye. But, that’s mostly because I have annoyingly discovered that I have multiple thoughts left to tell all of you about! So, I guess instead of multiple separate posts, you’ll have to deal with the abridged versions.
Boba is not that good. Boba, or bubble tea, has increased in popularity over the last few years to the point where I know of people who get it multiple times a week. First of all, bubble tea has never been that good. Of the numerous times I’ve had it, I’ve gotten fresh boba that wasn’t stale and overly chewy only three or four times. Also, the novelty of those chewy pieces in your tea wears off quite quickly. Sure, sometimes the tea itself is pretty good, but you can make that tea for way cheaper at home. Second of all, boba is incredibly unhealthy. While most places do offer less sugary options for the calorie conscious consumer, did you know that one serving of these tapioca balls can have 300 calories? And in terms of nutritional value, boba has basically no protein, vitamins or minerals. Don’t get me wrong, I think that as a once-in-a-while treat, boba can be a fun outing with your friends! But, I’d be wary of getting it all the time.
Overly spicy food is not enjoyable to eat and not impressive to make. Don’t get me wrong, I think that everyone should develop a base spice tolerance because it’s a really important part of a good palette. Being able to handle some spice opens the doors to a wide variety of food out there. But, spice should never be the only flavor in a dish. I think it’s important to blend spice with the other flavors in a dish to make something truly tasty and interesting. So, when I try a dish at a restaurant that burns my tongue and does nothing else, I’m really disappointed. Drowning a meal with capsaicin is not that hard to do! It’s just a pedestrian effort to make decent food.
This might be the hottest Cornell specific take, but the food at Collegetown Bagels is really overrated. I’ve tried plenty of things on the menu, from the pizza bagels to the breakfast sandwiches and more pastries than I probably should have. And while most of the food is pretty solid, it’s really overpriced. With that being said, I still do love going there for the atmosphere. Some of my best memories from this senior year have been sharing a carafe of sangria on the outdoor patio. CTB is a great place to hang out and chill. I think enjoying the atmosphere of a restaurant is really important and sometimes that’s part of what you’re paying for. And that’s okay! I just hope they can recreate that same magic after their move next year.
Lastly, I really hate how other people rate restaurants. You can see this on Yelp or Google or even here in our very own Dining Department. It seems like the average restaurant gets either four or five stars. When everyone gets a good review, it means absolutely nothing. If you’re new in town, it’s almost impossible to find amazing restaurants using these types of review-aggregate websites. Literally every other review is a five-star one. I’m definitely guilty of this too. Handing out a two or three star rating can seem really mean and make you feel guilty. But, we need to change the way we think about our rating system. If a restaurant is “pretty good” it’s okay to give it three stars! Let’s be honest, most restaurants are pretty good because most food is pretty good. If that’s the norm then that’s where we should define average to be. We should save these five-star reviews for the places that are truly special — real hidden gems.
At the end of the day, all my opinions above don’t really mean anything. They’re just the ramblings of some snobby, bored kid procrastinating his senior thesis. I’m reminded of Anton Ego’s words from arguably the best foodie movie of all time, Ratatouille: “But the bitter truth we critics must face, is that, in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so.” I can go on and on about how the restaurant I visited in Boston’s Chinatown was subpar despite the reviews online. But ultimately, the food served to me there has more merit than my words ever will. Even after reading my scathing words, if you go there and like the food you eat, you’re not really doing it wrong, are you?
This then begs the question, what’s the point of writing about food at all? Why rate restaurants and share recipes? Why watch the Food Network or give advice about how to make good quesadillas?
Our time here is finite. Over a lifetime, the average person eats about 80,000 meals. Over the last four years, I’ve realized how important it is to make each one of those meals count. Planning, making, eating and sharing a meal with the people I care about makes me the happiest person at Cornell — for a brief moment. A single amazing meal can turn someone’s whole day or week around. There’s beauty in how a perfect dish can energize your mind and body. And, I firmly believe there exists a meal that will change my life, and I hope to find it one day. I hope you also believe this life-changing meal exists for you too (or maybe you’ve already experienced it!).
They say good food feeds the soul. But for me, sharing my love of good food with you fills my soul. In a way, I guess I’ve been doing this for somewhat selfish reasons. But, I hope that something I’ve written in the last four years has shaped the way you think about food, or at least made you think twice before digging in. Thanks for tagging along on this wild ride and thank you for reading.
Murali Saravanan is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at [email protected].