Cornell University is prized as being the most diverse institution in the Ivy League, with 46 percent of undergraduates identifying as minorities and 11 percent as international students. Students come from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds and often bring customs and traditions from home. The diversity of the student body brings with it a diverse palette. Cornell Dining, consistently ranked in the top ten dining programs in the country, prides itself on being able to meet the dietary needs of their students by serving diverse cuisine and accommodating various restrictions. The menus at dining halls frequently feature foods from a variety of cultures.
Carriage House Cafe, John Thomas Steakhouse and Ten Forward Cafe. These are just a few of Ithaca’s restaurants forced into early closings by the COVID-19 pandemic. Suddenly, Ithaca business owners had to reevaluate as they faced massive losses in revenue; as it is estimated that Cornell students spend around $4 million every week in Ithaca, the loss of this steady income took its toll. Yet as Cornell students begin to interact with the greater Ithaca community once again, how are local restaurateurs reacting to our return? Is it a welcome change to have the students back in town once again, or has our arrival made some Ithaca business owners’ jobs even harder?
This week I had the opportunity to interview Jeremy Scheck, a current Cornell undergraduate student who has risen to the ranks of TikTok star. Like most students, Jeremy started spending his free time on social media giant TikTok to distract himself from boredom in quarantine. But what makes Jeremy’s experience noteworthy, is the fact that his videos have gained so much popularity that he has now over one million followers. He shares high quality videos of food he prepares. To start with a little background, Jeremy is a current junior here at Cornell majoring in Spanish and Italian.
Every Cornell applicant is guided around our campus and force-fed endless stories about the institution that is Collegetown Bagels. CTB has a pervasive presence throughout the entire Ithaca area and is undoubtedly a part of Cornell’s culture. I can’t blame students for loving the restaurant where they have fond memories of late nights and early mornings, but the worship of this shop’s bagels has gotten out of hand. Students will often rave about their food, so I’ve written this article to analyze CTB separate from our collective nostalgia and bring us back to reality. You may think I’m just a grumpy New Jersyian that is just looking to be a contrarian, while I sulk and dream of a grease-laden taylor ham egg and cheese, and you may be right.
When we hear the words “food taboo,” we often conjure up horrifying thoughts of eating dogs or horses; you may gag, or your skin could crawl, at the idea of consuming animals which many Americans would consider members of the family. Yet ask someone from Salento, Italy, about their opinions on horse meat, and they may enthusiastically reply that it’s a delicacy often featured in dishes like pezzetti di carne al pomodoro.
As food is becoming globalized, more countries are adopting what I would call the Universal Modern Cuisine — the diet most prominent in America, which revolves around grains and which, more importantly, holds many taboos against meat. As a result of this, the practice of eating horse meat is slowly declining, even in Italy. Regardless, Italy still remains the largest consumer of horse meat in the European Union, and its consumption is much more normalized in Italy than in the U.S. Given horse meat’s prevalence in Italy, it’s clearly enjoyable for many and must not have any adverse health effects for the consumer — yet most Americans would be extremely wary of any restaurant advertising this delicacy. Since we have already established that there is nothing inherently unhealthy or dangerous associated with eating horse meat, why do millions of people still avoid it for seemingly no reason?
Boredom — modern man’s worst fear. Typically it’s avoided by countless hours of swiping left and right through cookie-cutter Tinder profiles in hopes of securing a post-quarantine hookup, scrolling through meme feeds on Instagram that no longer make you laugh, browsing your favorite subReddit in hopes of finding a new post since the last time you checked (two minutes ago) and sending pictures of your blank face to other expressionless victims of the same archaic curse. How else is a Gen Z-er supposed to pass his time when forced live like a Band on the Run? Any way you look at it, quarantine presents a psychological and social quandary of the likes my generation has never had to deal with. Solitude.
Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this article misrepresented a source. The year is 1686. King James II looks on anxiously from his plushy throne in England as his New York colonial subjects become increasingly unruly. To tighten his grip on the settlers and quell whispers of rebellion, he appoints Thomas Dongan, a Royalist military officer, to govern the New York territory and issue decrees known as Dongan Patents for the creation of trustee-run towns across the royal province. One of these towns was Long Island’s Town of Brookhaven.
Despite making up just about two percent of the U.S. population, Jews remain keepers of an incredibly varied culture. We see this first-hand in the wide range of Jewish identities which exist in America alone — an Israeli Jew may arrive in the U.S. cooking with chickpeas and pomegranates, only to balk at the copious amounts of “white food” which many Ashkenazi Jews consume. Likewise, latkes and gefilte fish may seem so intrinsically Jewish to these Eastern European Jewish communities that shunning them is to eschew Judaism entirely. Jewish culture is, therefore, dependent upon the interpreter’s own experiences, creating a collection of identities as varied as its people. Yet despite their differences, these groups unite themselves under the larger “Jewish” title, celebrating tradition and commitment to the community in similar ways: Through food.
As July turns to August, the growing season in central New York is at its peak. A bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables can be found at your local farmer’s market, community garden or even your own backyard. If there was ever a time to attempt to eat more ethically, it’s now! There are few ways to eat more ethically and sustainably than eating in-season, locally grown produce. When you purchase local and in-season goods, you diminish your food’s carbon footprint tremendously by eliminating the need to store, cure, freeze and transport your produce.
Equipped with hand sanitizer and face masks, I began my fifty-mile bike ride to interview Klaas Martens, an organic farmer from Penn Yan, New York. On the way, I saw a “For Sale” sign outside a small complex called Freedom Village. I got barked at by too many guard dogs and I conquered obnoxiously long, steep hills that made my thighs scream. I passed by miles upon miles of corn fields. Corn is a major New York crop with 1 million acres planted yearly.