Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

March 16, 2022

The Secret Side of Professors: Their Snacks of Choice

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We as humans end up thinking about food a lot during class. Perhaps you’re craving your favorite dining hall’s greasy, yet delicious cheese pizza that awaits you. Maybe you’re regretting the Okenshield’s taco as you anxiously eye the door. Or maybe you were proactive, as you secretly slip bites of a cookie, fruit or nuts into your mouth as you attempt to keep up with the lecture slides. But something I only recently started to ponder, and I speculate many Cornellians neglect, is what our professors choose to snack on. You rarely see teachers eating lunch, or even a snack while lecturing, but I know that professors have some essentials hidden in their drawer Perhaps a snack to nibble on while grading a particularly atrocious paper, or a meal to eat while doing research. I asked a few of my teaching assistants and professors to answer this looming question.

Charlotte Sas, a French graduate student from Paris, is a TA for my French class. Sas made it clear to me that there are two forms of snacking in her office.

 “You have two types of snacks,” Sas said. “You have the healthy ones, carrots and hummus, and that’s the go to for a healthy snack.” 

Right off the bat, Sas presented some delicious snacks that made my stomach growl. “The other type of snack is the chocolate, lots and lots of chocolate, and it’s the worst type for you: milk chocolate,” Sas said. 

We had a quiz in French that day, and so naturally I inquired about what type of snack Sas eats while grading. 

“If you guys did brilliantly on the quiz, I will eat chocolate,” Sas said. 

I was also intrigued about whether there was a distinction between what Sas eats in the office and at home.

 “I have an office in Klarman Hall that I share with a lot of other TAs,” Sas said. “When I’m in the office I want to impress the other TAs, so I’ll eat the carrots. Chocolate is a secret snack that I only eat in the lounge or at my house.” 

This was fascinating. There was a secret underground world of TAs where there perhaps existed a world of judgment based on what they ate in their office. I just had to find out more from my other professors.

I attended office hours for my economics class and sat down to talk with Prof. Jennifer Wissink, economics, about what types of snacks she keeps in her office. One of the first things I noticed when I stepped into her office was an overflowing basket of candy, which contained Skittles, M&Ms, Reese’s bars and Snickers. I questioned the placement of the basket, and Wissink explained, “I am known as the candy lady but COVID-19 has put a damper on it. When I have students in my office I don’t feel as if it is responsible anymore to have candy during office hours. But I tell students to take some and eat it outside or in the elevator.”

Unlike my French TA, Professor Wissink had an entire office to herself. I wondered if she went to the dining hall to eat amongst the students, or if she contained herself in her office.

“I eat lunch in my office all the time and I try to stay away from the more sugary food and eat healthy. I usually pack a yogurt, add-ins to the yogurt and then a Seltzer water,” Wissink said.

However, I still had a pressing question: do professors consume any food or beverages during lectures? Do they eat before? Or are their stomachs growling as they teach us about supply and demand?

“During lectures I never consume any food,” Wissink said. “I don’t even bring a coffee cup. I sometimes bring water if I have a dry throat, but especially with COVID-19 I don’t like to take my mask off while I’m teaching. In my office I really like unsalted mixed nuts. They’re good for you but very high in calories,” Wissink then followed up,. “They’re my go-to if I start to feel lazy in the afternoons: cashews are my favorite.” I was curious about the unsalted factor of the nuts.

What I am learning is that Cornell faculty seem to be very conscious about their health. I assume this is a development with maturity, as I often shamelessly gobble down four or five pieces of cake in one sitting. I needed one more viewpoint to solidify how professors ate.

Prof. Elisávet Makridis, english and poetry, takes her heritage into account when she is deciding what she wants to snack on. 

“There’s a specific cookie that I keep in my drawer that I love called Ladokouloura,” Makridis said. Ladokouloura, a Greek style olive oil cookie, reflects Makridis’ Greek heritage. Again. I decided to pose the same question: “what do you eat when you’re reading through an abundance of student essays and you need a bit of an energy boost?”

“I like to make a piece of Bavarian bread cut in half, once half is almond butter and my grandmother’s marmalade, and then the other half is tomato kalamata olives, as the savory side,” Makridis said. “It is very much a tie to my ancestors and my home. When I write I connect with them, and food is very much a part of that. It activates that connection, and it is special when you’re able to eat food you’re emotionally connected to when you’re doing work.”

Clearly, Makridis is conscious about her health while eating, but it seems like connecting her heritage to her food, lifestyle and writing is most important.

We all know that Cornell Professors are extremely intelligent. We know they can be scary sometimes. I bet you didn’t think you needed to know what they snacked on in private, hidden away from all of their students. Now you do.

   Jimmy Cawley is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at [email protected].