Corvese ’15: Brown food is good food

Opinions Columnist
Thursday, February 7, 2013

If I could make one suggestion to President Christina Paxson on her strategic planning update, it would be to implement a Brown/Johnson and Wales culinary dual degree program.

Though I have a feeling this isn’t going to happen anytime soon, we still have an impressive variety of food here on College Hill. But not all of my peers agree with me. In fact, I have found some of my peers are more worried about the food here than they are about their exams. Food should not be a source of worry. At a school where certain foods are staples of our University culture — spicies with and Chicken Finger Friday come to mind —  it is time we realize dining hall food isn’t going to kill us.

Considering Brown’s liberal and open-minded reputation, it is a surprise how quick we are to reject school food. The Ratty’s turkey and mashed potatoes do not compare to Mom’s Thanksgiving feast, but that does not mean the food served on trays is inferior to that served on china. Most of us came to college to try new things, and people seem to forget that includes food.

First of all, I want to get one thing out of the way: There are no laxatives in school food. I’m not sure where this collegiate urban legend came from, but it is certainly just a rumor and nothing more. The Ratty’s black bean stew may take a different toll on your gastrointestinal tract than a plate of pasta does, but that does not mean there are scheming dining services workers making sure your system gets flushed before the food poisoning kicks in. And the title “the Ratty” is not a description of work conditions, but rather a nostalgic reference to campus lore. Have a little more faith in Brown’s food and dining workers, since they are only trying to make sure we aren’t studying on empty stomachs.

Even with that reassurance, are you still apprehensive about eating every meal in a dining hall? Change your meal plan. Brown offers plans for people who need three meals a day and people who only snack. Though some feel the prices of some plans do not match their values, full meal plans are cost-effective in the long run since pooling money from all the smaller plans keeps the price of a large one reasonable. For students with religious or medical reasons that prevent them from snacking with reckless abandon, Brown also offers plenty of different meal plans to accommodate even the most stringent diets.

Regardless of options, though, do you constantly dread eating Blue Room sandwiches and find Chicken Finger Friday to be a waste of a celebration? Go completely off meal plan and explore all of the food options around you. There are a handful of events on campus every day offering free food, as indicated by the phrase “Kabob and Curry will be served” constantly punctuating event descriptions. And when free samosas begin to get old, you are left with Brown students’ most valuable food resource: the city. Recently dubbed “the creative capital,” Providence offers restaurants near and far to creatively fit every craving and desire.

And if you truly are unhappy with the food others are preparing for you, there is always cooking. The prospect can be intimidating to some, but with practice, the right ingredients and a little bit of research, you can go from microwaving Easy Mac to preparing white truffle and gruyere macaroni and cheese in no time. Just be careful with sharp knives, and please try not to burn anything down.

I, like many others, have opened my fridge, seen a plethora of goods and wistfully declared, “There’s nothing to eat!” But I do hope the same stops applying to Brown. Food at Brown is what you make of it, and there are more than enough options here and in Providence to feed the pickiest student. The dining halls may not be in Zagat or Michelin guides, but I am not afraid to speak the truth some of us are too stubborn to admit: The food here is pretty good.

When all else fails, though, Johnson and Wales is just a bus ride away.


Gabriella Corvese ’15 makes a mean stir-fry and can be reached at

  • ’13

    The problem isn’t whether the food is good or bad. The problem is the lack of flexibility, the price of the meal plans, and the difficulties posed for those with dietary restrictions or food allergies. For those who do go off meal plan –– and save quite a bit of money doing so –– cooking can be difficult if they live in a dorm where kitchens are dirty or supplies are regularly borrowed or stolen. Some buildings don’t have kitchens (or proper equipment), and it can be a fight to get access to another building for one’s culinary needs. And even eating out, while a tantalizing option, can be expensive, not to mention unhealthy if done on a regular basis.

    As someone with both dietary restrictions and food allergies, the need to go off meal plan became very apparent at the end of my sophomore year when I found that the vast majority of what I *could* eat was rotting vegetables (because yes, that does happen) and the aforementioned black bean soup. I was paying $14 or so for this meal, when I could buy the requisite ingredients for only a few dollars at a grocery store. I was fortunate enough to live in buildings with proper kitchens, but that is not the case for everyone.

    Compared to peer institutions, our food really isn’t all that good, especially for those who cannot eat everything. I am grateful, however, that Brown requires a meal plan only of its freshmen –– other schools will keep you on theirs no matter what.

  • student

    I am beginning to think that the entire Brown Daily Herald is just a very clever, very dry satire.