Serious Eats

Staff Picks: What College Food Item Did You Depend on for Survival?

Peanut Butter Cups

[Photograph: Robyn Lee]

Whether you're hittin' the books or the bar, late night grinds and grinding hangovers have at least one thing in common—they require a whole lot of fuel. Also, college. These are the items that we simply couldn't have survived without.

Peanut Butter Cups
"Oh man, this was the golden age of peanut butter cups for me. I had a near-unlimited amount of monopoly money to spend at the campus convenience store (thank you, scammy first year dining plan), and they had the grace to to stock peanut butter cups in the bulk candy bin—and be open until the wee hours of the morning. So during every late night (which was basically every night during one semester when bedtime was roughly 5 a.m.) there came time for a candy run. A fistful or two of PB cups became an essential of my college diet. It's a marvel I made it through there alive." Max Falkowitz

Pie
"Peppermint stick pie! A Wellesley cult favorite in the dining hall." Tracie Lee

Animal Crackers / Cup-A-Soup
"For me, it's a toss-up between those giant tubs of Animal Crackers (the smooth, plump animals they sold in bulk at Walgreens not the old school Barnum's ones) and packets of Cup-A-Soup. But really, if we're talking about living, I couldn't have lived without the electric kettle that automatically shut itself off after boiling because I'd probably have drunk-soup-making burned my dorm down." Carrie Vasios

Coffee
"My college life often involved papers due each Thursday, and thus, it involved VERY tall coffee drinks each Wednesday from Small World. Pretty-much-raw-dough chocolate chip cookies from the U-Store were essential, too." Maggie Hoffman

Small World Coffee

[Photograph: Srevatsan Muralidharan on Flickr]

Hot Plate
"I straight-up smuggled an electric single burner into my NYU dorm room freshman year. It lived under my bed, and I used it mostly to boil water to make the fancy pastas I picked up in Little Italy. I had to be really careful not to burn a hole in the carpet with it and arouse the suspicions of my RA, who cared little for my desire to move beyond microwave cookery." Jamie Feldmar

Cheesy Popcorn
"I've already touched on on my obsession with cheesy popcorn, but allow me to elaborate: I freaking LOVE it. While writing my thesis, I went head-to-head with a family size bag...I literally ate so much of it that it started to cut up the inside of my mouth." Niki Achitoff-Gray

[Photograph: Robyn Lee]

Slim Jim's
"I was a Slim Jim's freak. Some folks' parents sent them care packages with home-baked cookies or perhaps giant bags of candy bars to get them through mid-term season. My mom would send me giant boxes of mini Slim Jim's in the dispenser packaging—you know, the kind with the fold-out mouth that you see at the check-out lane in gas stations? My dresser was that checkout lane.

There's just something about the decisive snap of that smoky beef snack filled with mechanically separated chicken, corn protein, dextrose, and hydrolyzed soy that can't be beat. The ideal snack to help power me through problem sets, help cure my hangover, or to comfort my crushed soul when that-girl-who-was-definitely-the-one-or-at-least-more-the-one-than-the-last-the-one-or-at-least-she-has-a-cute-smile dumped me (again).

Modern Slim Jims don't seem to have the same snap as they did back then, and I've largely given up on them. Somewhere up there Macho Man Randy Savage is looking down on the world and sadly shaking his head." J. Kenji Lopez-Àlt

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Dried Fruit and Nuts
"I spent my first year of college in Poughkeepsie, New York. ...While on a raw food diet. Yeah...ffffun. (I wasn't trying to torture myself or anything; I believed in it, until I, um, gave up on it.) My favorite things to keep in my dorm room were dried fruits (dates, figs, raisins) and nuts (mostly almonds) because those were the easiest things I could snack on while on my diet. A special treat was when my mom would drive up from New Jersey and bring me a case of persimmons. Oh, how times have changed since then." Robyn Lee

Instant Ramen
"I know it's a cliché, but I'm pretty sure I would have withered away without packaged ramen when I was junior. I'm going to blame one of my roommates for the addiction. Faced with a surplus of money on his college dining card at the end of the semester that would disappear if he didn't use it, he decided to blow all of it on ramen. This resulted in a stack of dried noodles that towered to the ceiling (I'm not even kidding). Though he had enough to feed the entire hall for a month, he was very protective of his stash. Because they were just there and I couldn't have them, I became obsessed. Sometimes my other roommate and I would drink too much and steal packets, but then we had to slurp them up as fast as possible so he wouldn't catch us in the act. Eventually we decided to pool our money and purchase our own boxes of ramen, creating a competing tower of noodles on the other side of the room, which the ramen roommate was not allowed to touch. I don't think any of us actually enjoyed eating ramen that much, and after we stopped living together, our ramen consumption dropped dramatically." Nick Kindelsperger

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Contraband Coffeemaker
"I was already a coffee junkie by the time I left for my freshman year at Emerson College; I could not have made it through that year in the dorms without the contraband coffeemaker that lived in my dorm room closet. It brewed directly into a to-go cup. I remember it fondly."Ben Fishner

What did we miss? What foods did (or do) you depend on in your college days?

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