Hometown food favorites

by Cassandra

We recently picked up out of state DD from the airport with an In N Out milkshake in the car, tritip and crab on the dinner menus for her time with us. Other foods were also requested. What do your out of state kids want to eat when they get back? What foods sing to you of home? Do your children enjoy your childhood comfort foods?


108 thoughts on “Hometown food favorites

  1. My kid mainly just wanted to not be eating in the cafeteria. But he is a foodie, and also loves to cook with me, so we had a long lineup of favorites – chicken curry, mapo tofu, middle eastern meatballs made from lamb and served in spicy tomato sauce, bratwursts with beans and cabbage, stirfried pork belly, lasagna… We are going to do beef stew this weekend.
    He always eats the dinner leftovers for breakfast.
    And I laid in a good supply of canned bean soups – Progresso lentil, Progresso white bean soup, and Chunky bean soup – because that is what he likes for lunch.
    For takeout Friday, he asked for cumin lamb from a place that does good SIchuanese food that we have been using for takeout for a while.

    I just really enjoy cooking with him, and will miss it in another week or so.

  2. DS1: homemade grilled beef (steaks/burgers) and seafood, smoked chicken, pork. He’s as apt to do it for himself as to have me do it. He doesn’t have the place to do that in his apt. Some of mom’s home cooking, largely Italian-based. A lot of which he can do, but cooking for 1 is not a motivator.

    DS2: since he has roommates in a student apartment I think he just likes not having to limit himself to the tools, variety of spices, etc he has there

    DS3: like MM’s kid, glad not to have to eat dorm food.

    They all like to get pizza and wings from the local place. Nothing like it where any of them are.

  3. We were fortunate to have access to great Vietnamese food when we lived in Virginia, and the hands down favorite was The Four Sisters, especially for the spring rolls. Now, anytime any of us visit DC, we make a pilgrimage to this restaurant, order a big platter of spring rolls, and send a photo to the rest of the family.

  4. DD#1 – She says the food at school isn’t awful, but isn’t great and lacks variety. She thinks other students are picky or just had way too high expectations for cafeteria food. Her biggest complaint is that she can get four-five different Asian dishes, but the only Hispanic/Mexican dish is plain jane tacos (ground beef, lettuce, tomato and cheese). She said – how hard are refried beans? She’d even settle for the ones out of a can.

    In her 16 days home, the major asks:
    #1 – TexMex – We went to her two favorite restaurants for dinner a total of 3 times and breakfast tacos out twice. Any refried beans every single time!
    #2 – Asian – She has a favorite Pho restaurant and had her favorite dish from there once. She went with a friend to Panda Express (both go out of state and report no Panda in their town.)
    #3 – Home cooked: (a) Mashed potatoes – as she said – made from real potatoes that weren’t a completely smooth puree. (b) Rice – She says the school’s jasmine rice is the closest to ours, but too sticky. We just saute lightly in olive oil before adding water and a teaspoon of dry bullion. (c) Chicken – Not sure what our home made chicken had over the school’s.

  5. 30 years ago when my H moved far from NY he would have hometown bagels shipped to him because there’s nothing like NY bagels. Fast forward to when my oldest left for college he used to crave local bagels because there’s still nothing like NY bagels. (I’m sure there are places around the country with great bagels that taste like the originals, but we haven’t found those places yet.)

    A few years ago when I took my kids to a beloved Whataburger in my home town they didn’t think it was anything special. And even though I had built up anticipation longing for one of my favorite hamburgers of my youth, I agreed with them! I guess my tastes have changed, or maybe the myth exceeded the reality in this case.

  6. When I lived abroad, Junior Mints were surprisingly hard to find. Kind friends shipped me 10 boxes. When I returned to the States, I rarely indulged. Not having something readily available definitely made it more desirable.

    When I visit my family, I often get wings, Mighty Taco and beef on weck but its not a disaster if I don’t. There’re a certain mustard, hot dog brand and a few other items you can only find near my family but there are plenty of decent substitutes. One exception is sponge candy. That’s really hard to find elsewhere, but not something I’d eat regularly any way.

  7. Are anny of the dorm college kids mentioned planning to move off campus in the next year or two?

  8. July, you really can’t get real NY bagels in most of the country. My good friend who now lives in Chicago always wants bagels when she visits here. And when we go to KY, forget it – the bagels are like soft dinner rolls.

  9. July, mine does not want to move out of the dorms because the dorms are nice, and off campus means Newark or buying a car.

  10. On a related front – DD#1 did gain a about 5 pounds, which puts her a bit low even for her. Her “normal” is in the 25-30% for her height and she is almost back to that range. Also, the labs she had done while she was here came back showing improvement, some areas much better than others. She does each mainly in their “simple servings” station which is the “healthier” food choices.

  11. When my sister came to visit, she came laden with vacuum sealed country ham pieces. I use them with biscuits or to season greens. I have never seen this product in any NY grocery store.

  12. My kid says his favorite thing in the dorm is the “make your own omelette” station. He says there is a skill to it, which he has mastered over time. Otherwise, he says the plain meats are safest because everything else is overcooked and underseasoned.

  13. He can also use his meal card at the Smashburger on the ground floor of his dorm, which he does fairly often.

  14. When I went to school and came home, I mostly wanted to bake (since I didn’t have a kitchen), and have hot dogs and baked beans. In NYC when I was in law school, I couldn’t find baked beans in the stores anywhere, and so my mom mailed me some, as well as some brown bread – that was a heavy package! When we go to visit my parents in the summer we have fried seafood at least once, and lobster.

    I still miss the food in our old town: (1) nice bistro for date night; (2) Asian street food/ramen for lunch or dinner; and (3) really good Thai food for cheap takeout. I also miss the super 88 food court in Allston for the hot stone bowl Korean food, the Vietnamese place, and the bubble tea. It’s not really on the way to work or home, so I’ve only stopped there a couple of times since we moved. Thankfully a good sushi place opened up a 5-minute drive away, so we’ve been going there a lot.

  15. When I lived abroad my roommate, who was from NYC, would have bagels overnighted to her once a month.

    When I’m home we always hit up a particular pizza place, a coney island, and a Middle Eastern restaurant.

  16. We go through this before and after sleepaway camp. Chinese food and pizza from a favorite local place are usually the most requested items.

    We wake up early and buy fresh bagels that we bring on Visiting Day. One of her favorite treats from our childhood is a Black and White cookie. We don’t bring those on VD due to melt factor. Black and white cookies are like bagels because it’s hard to find good ones outside metro NY. It must be in the water.

  17. July – Mine is required to live on campus for the first 5 semesters (last one is a summer semester). Then, in the junior year one semester is an away experience. This is the first year this is mandatory, but most juniors are trying for on campus as getting off campus housing for one semester is hard. Housing is tight for juniors and seniors on campus unless they are an RA, LA or need an accommodation

  18. My kid (soph) is planning to move off campus for next year.

    His housing this year was not managed well. I use the passive voice because it truly was not all his fault. He had a good enough lottery number, and could bring the kid along with him he wanted to room with who had a worse number, but the other kid never actually signed up, or didn’t complete the deposit, or something so wasn’t actually eligible. DS therefore was a single and could choose any available spot, but who he got in his room is random since by the time his snafu was discovered everyone else had roomates/chosen their room. It’s not horrible, but not fun. He spends a lot of his free time at his friends’ places who live off campus. Next year it’ll be in a house with several friends, probably cheaper overall than the dorms.

  19. My oldest moved off campus after two years in the dorms. She is loving apartment life. The middle one will have one year in the dorms and then move off campus unless she becomes an RA (extremely unlikely).

  20. My kids love DH’s grilled teriyaki (or Hoisin) chicken thighs. Particularly DS, for whom DH will grill a pack of 18 or so before the boy comes for a weekend visit.

    DH has always made a lot of Asian things that the kids all want when they’re home, too — scallion pancakes with egg, fried rice, etc.

    Our 2 younger girls love a butternut squash soup I make, and DD always wants a Brussels sprouts/acorn squash/bacon thing I make.

    Mostly, after cafeteria meals (youngest) or cooking for themselves (older 3) they are just all very grateful to have us make anything for them — even a cup of coffee or an egg sandwich. They’re very easy to please these days.

  21. This is timely because we are going to NY/NJ next weekend. Bagels are a must – I’ve found a place that has really good bagels here but they still aren’t the same. Pizza is also a must. Another big one is Friendly’s hot fudge. I usually buy a big container to bring back but I need to check the TSA rules because we’re just taking carry-ons.

    We are having a surprise party for my brother’s 50th at a restaurant that we went to all the time when we were growing up but we’ve only been there once in the last 20 years. They have the best potato skins. I want to pick up some Entemann’s chocolate chip cookies, they don’t sell them out here for some reason.

    And we need to get some really good Chinese food. The Chinese here is fine, but I still haven’t found a place that knows how to make fired rice. We’re going to go to Chinatown when we’re in the city.

  22. My DD is in an apt off campus and adores it. Has a cat and a dog, does meal planning and shopping and cooking, is all about regular laundry sessions and weekly cleaning, etc. She’s always talking about how she’s “adulting” and she really is doing a good job it it.

    DS has been out of college for 18 mos now and has spanned the continuum from zero freedom (Basic training) to total freedom now, with his own apt on base and also a room in a friend’s house off base. He will soon be returning to school and will be required to live on campus all 4 years, and back to zero freedom the first of those years. He says he’s ready for it, and as he had no problem suffering the indignities of either Basic or fraternity pledging, I think he may actually be fine with it.

  23. I lived in the dorms all 4 years. Most of my friends did too. Off campus apartments always seemed so bleak and roach infested. My husband did too, but that was because his undergrad university had almost no apartment complexes nearby.

  24. My food for when I go home is Indian sweets. The sweets even in places like NJ, just aren’t the same. I have tried a number of sweet shops but the taste is not the same.
    There are several snack shops here offering the street snacks that can be found in the home country but it’s a trek for us.
    I miss clam chowder, lobster and lobster rolls and Italian American food of the Northeast. OTOH, I have embraced grits and BBQ.
    There is now a Shake Shack near us, kids and DH tried the burgers and pronounced it good.
    I miss the lunch places close to my previous office location. “Home” to me has been many different places, so there’s something missing but also something new.

  25. Fred, my kid;s school didn’t let them preselect roommates. His roommate seems fine – he has a girfriend at the same school so is often not around.

  26. My oldest moved off campus after two years in the dorms.

    What made her want to move off campus?

  27. Bagels with lox and cream cheese, Garden Catering (Fairfield County – Westchester chain), homemade oxtail soup, grilled steak, a good pub-style burger.

    Oldest DS is currently living in a off-campus apartment but next year he’ll be in a house. Youngest DS will still be in the dorms. His particular dorm doesn’t have any kitchen facilites, not even a shared kitchen, and that really bothers him. He’s a pretty good cook.

  28. “I’m sure there are places around the country with great bagels that taste like the originals, but we haven’t found those places yet.”

    There aren’t.

    We have many family food memories and comfort foods — my mom still makes Johnny Mazetti casserole when folks are coming in and ETA/level of hunger are not fully known, and last visit my stepsister and I were reminiscing about “black lump on the grill” (a/k/a burnt teriyaki roast that turned into a family favorite). For me, it is my Grandma’s mac and cheese casserole — made with bechamel and colby cheese, topped with smashed saltines, butter, and more cheese. That would be my last meal if I had my choice. Even my choices of where to live included food considerations — I distinctly remember weighing Texadelphia vs. Pinocchio’s in my “which offer to take” analysis. No, it wasn’t at the top of the list — but it was definitely on it. ;-)

    DD is going to want to live off-campus as soon as she can, because she loves baking, and in particular learning heritage foods. One of her favorite schools offers a “passion” project, where you submit a proposal for the school to pay for whatever you need to investigate a particular thing, and she has already decided that if she gets in, her passion project will be figuring out how to make pumpkin challah (because she has concluded the extra moisture and heaviness of the pumpkin messes with the light/eggy texture the bread should have). ;-) I strongly suspect her “coming home from college” request will be less of the home-cooked variety and more of the “I can’t afford it as a poor college student/can’t find it in my area” variety — in particular sushi, followed by pho and dumplings and every other kind of Asian takeout available. Oh: and Saturday morning bagels, even if they are not of NYC quality.

    [thinks for a moment . . . realizes that bagel problem could be solved if DD gets into/attends Columbia, a mere 30 short blocks from Barney Greengrass . . . debates tuition/room&board costs . . . thinks about who she knows who could do some arm-twisting on the admissions committee . . . .]

  29. “What made her want to move off campus?”

    Pretty much everything…..the vast majority of kids move off campus. She got more space, her own bedroom and bathroom, a kitchen to prepare meals. Quiet when she needed it. The apartment is both nicer and cheaper than the dorm. She drives to campus, but since she has early classes (kids these days, who wants 8 am classes five days a week?) she can get parking easy enough. She can make the food she wants, rather than the dorm food, which she didn’t really like.

  30. DS3 is staying on campus again next year. He likes the ease/quiet of the brand spanking new honors dorm and not having a car. DS2 moved into an apartment after 2 years in the dorm, but his college is surrounded by furnished apartments that only rent to students, so it is somewhat dormlike and essentially an apartment with training wheels. I imagine DS3 will do the same thing but it will totally depend on what his friends are doing. By Junior year, his brothers both wanted cars at school, and the apartment sort of followed that.

    I was horrified that DS3 had to sign up for housing next year in October – when I was in college I wasn’t connected enough 6 weeks into freshman year to not be completed stressed out by finding a roommate. DS3 had no problem with it and is signed up to suite with one guy he knows well and two he barely knows but considers good guys.

  31. “She can make the food she wants, rather than the dorm food, which she didn’t really like.”

    I keep hearing that young people don’t cook any more, so it suprises me that so many college kids want to have to cook.

    My memory of the people I knew who went off campus was that they lived on yogurt, ramen, and takeout pizza. But it was a small subset of people I knew because most stayed in the dorms. Apartments in Boston, even then, were expensive. And you had to find someone to sublet in the summer, or else pay rent out of your summer job.

  32. Cassandra,

    Interesting. My experience was similar to Mr. Mooshi in that there wasn’t any student focused housing available. It was mostly rich kids who had apartments as the dorms were the cheapest option. But obviously that has a lot to do with local housing stock, rental market, size of the school, etc.

  33. “Apartments in Boston, even then, were expensive. And you had to find someone to sublet in the summer, or else pay rent out of your summer job.”

    One of the benefits of going from high COL to low COL is that apartments seems really cheap. DD1 isn’t paying that much more for her apartment than I paid for mine during grad school. It will be interesting shortly when we will likely pay about double for DD2’s hovel as we do for DD1’s granite appointed townhouse.

  34. so it suprises me that so many college kids want to have to cook.

    Or that’s the excuse they give mom and dad and they really want to be able to fuck, drink and smoke weed in peace. Or at least that was they way it was back in the day.

  35. Back in my day, no one cared about drinking in the dorms. But I know that has really changed, so that is probably a big reason.

  36. When I was in college, everyone moved off campus by junior year. Mooshi, you mentioned in a previous thread that you couldn’t wait to go home during breaks because you were tired of the shared bathrooms and lack of space, etc. That’s exactly why we all moved off-campus. My roommates and I certainly didn’t cook gourmet meals, but we ate well enough. Certainly not ramen and frozen pizza every day.

  37. I’m the rare duck that liked the dorms. My freshman year dorm experience was just okay, but after that I got a single and life was pretty easy for me (as an introvert I loved living all alone). Eventually I went to an apartment, but missed how convenient it was to live on campus, and I also missed the food. I found the food really good, much better than what I got at home, but my mom is not known for cooking skills. At least once a month we’d have crab legs, and once a semester they would do a special night, with lobster tails and steak. Not to mention the softserve ice cream with unlimited toppings – I’d just get a bowl of toppings, no ice cream.

  38. When mine come home from being away (at this age, summer camp), the first things they want are smoothies and homemade mac & cheese.

    When I am away from home I miss the good seafood around here.

  39. I remember doing college tours a few years ago and the dorm food looked pretty good, with lots of choices and food cooked to order. But I guess even that could get boring for some kids.

  40. Whenever I travel to my hometown I eat Mexican food as much as I can. Plus Luby’s cafeteria. Those are foods that are either not the same or nonexistent here.

  41. Dorm food has certainly changed over the years. Where my DH went to school, many of the dorms were small and had “family meals” where there was exactly one entree and everyone had to sit down together at the same time. Growing up, he was a picky eater but he always jokes that he lost that characteristic quickly in the dorms because the one entree was the only option. I was a grad student at the same university, a good number of years later, and by then the small dorms had one consolidated cafeteria where there were usually 3 entrees and sandwiches and a salad bar. That was how things in my undergrad cafeteria too.
    I was pretty meh about the cafeteria food but I loved being able to eat with my friends. That was another thing that made me not long for an apartment. Eating alone, in fact, was a huge reason I hated living by myself later on in life.

  42. I also liked dorms, but I went to schools where like 98% of people lived on campus. Even in law school, the school dorms were pretty nice and MUCH cheaper than finding an apt in NYC. I also had a single from sophomore room on, with jack and jill bathroom, so the cattle-call bathroom was only my freshman year. We had a kitchen senior year so I was able to make scones and cookies, and our dining hall was connected to the dorms so you could get breakfast in your PJs, which a large percentage of people did.

  43. My last two years of college, I lived in a brownstone dorm, in a single. The dorm had clearly been converted from an apartment setup, so the bathrooms were one-person-at-at-time, with bathtubs. There were two per floor, with 5 floors in total and around 50 residents so it wasn’t hard to find a free bathroom. We had a kitchen in the basement. But mostly we ate at the cafeteria in the student union. All the brownstone dorms used that cafeteria so I could always find people I knew to sit with.

  44. “‘so it suprises me that so many college kids want to have to cook.’

    Or that’s the excuse they give mom and dad and they really want to be able to fuck, drink and smoke weed in peace.”

    LOL. Remember, these are Totebagger kids — it probably is about the cooking. ;-)

    My school required you to stay in the dorms at least two years, and the vast majority stayed all 4 years. I would have — had finally gotten a nice single for senior year (introvert alert!) — but then decided to study off-campus fall term senior year and so was looking at @6 months in a double somewhere with someone I’d never met before (interovert alert redux). I got lucky, though, and through a friend-of-a-friend heard of a room that had just opened in a 3Br apartment a few blocks off-campus. It was awesome, and one of my roommates there became my best friend from the whole 4 years.

    Of course, we still had to do the full dining plan, so my cooking was largely limited to box mac and cheese and brownies.

  45. Eventually I went to an apartment, but missed how convenient it was to live on campus,

    This is another big difference, beside the cost. At my school, a lot of the apartments were just as close to the center of campus as a lot of the dorms were, and depending where your classes were, were more convenient than the dorms.

  46. DS has no plans to move off campus. About 99% of the undergrads at his school dorm the full four years.

    One of his criteria for schools was a full four year residential experience, and he plans to dorm the full four years, even if he could graduate sooner than that.

    DD originally said she was agnostic about that, but more recently has also indicated a preference for a four year residential experience.

  47. “realizes that bagel problem could be solved if DD gets into/attends Columbia, a mere 30 short blocks from Barney Greengrass”

    Or Barnard.

  48. Off topic – can i just say that I’m beyond happy to hear that Jayme Closs was found alive. It was huge news around here. For those that don’t know the story, three months ago she was kidnapped and both her parents were killed. There were absolutely no clues or tips to her whereabouts and somehow she managed to escape her kidnapper. It has been so uplifting to have a good news story be the main topic of conversation in the media.

  49. When I lived in SV, whenever I went home, my mom would buy an aku (aka Bluefin tuna) and prepare it a number of ways.

    In a case of the acorn not falling far from the tree, DS has been eating a lot of poke bowls since he got home.

  50. @Finn: well, given that she didn’t apply there, that option seems unlikely. ;-)

  51. Lemon Tree, I was delighted to hear that news, also! It never really occurred to me that she might be found alive. I expected eventually a body would turn up. Such good news!

  52. Lemon Tree – I read that story and was very happy for the girl.

    My living in the dorms as an older student was an adventure. It was also a discovery of different food preparations in the cafeteria. Some of my friends would not take me to Taco Bell deeming the food gross (I just wanted to taste a taco).
    Kids would complain about cafeteria food but there was such a variety offered, I didn’t see cause for complaints. Of course some kids ate pizza routinely at the Pizza Hut outlet on campus. I think there must be healthier food outlets on campuses now rather than pizza.

  53. @Lemon – Did you deliberately leave off the name of the pizza place or can I guess? When I was out that way recently, coworker said we absolutely had to go to the one famous place, and I admit – the pizza was outstanding, and much better than the recent Detroit-style pizza places that have expanded here.

    Of my current hometown foods – I would most miss Vienna Beef hot dogs and polish sausages, which are the ideal versions of those foods to me. And also the local thin crust pizza (although I make a pretty decent version at home). I’ve never been all that keen on some of the other local “specialties” like beef sandwiches (cheesesteaks are better) or deep dish pizza (it’s fine – I like it once a year in the winter).

    Of the places that I have lived – there are definitely things that I miss & seek out when I visit. Minnesota wild rice soup, Iowa giant pork tenderloin sandwiches, Usinger’s bratwurst, Carolina vinegar sauce pulled pork, New Haven pizza with clams.

    And of the things that my parents make that I love the most it would be my dad’s lasagna and grilled lamb, and my mom’s meringue cookies.

  54. My kids love Moms double battered fried chicken. Mac n cheese, tuna noodle casserole, turkey pot pie, lasagna. Pity that modern dietary science has turned these inexpensive filling meals into splurge only items. And of course, pecan pie. On return vists to Boston they also had an immediate need for a pizza from the local greek owned parlor.

    When we used to vist my mom we always liked the one decent meal she could make. brisket roasted in tin foil, first rubbed with a packet of lawrys onion soup mix and smothered with a small can of hunts tomato sauce. On the side red jello mold with coke, cranberry sauce and walnuts, and frozen birds eye frenched green beans with almond slivers, and a can of little round potatoes sauteed with butter and finished with sour cream and paprika.

  55. DS will live in an on-campus apartment in the fall. They are for those 21+, and are lofts with granite counters and concrete floors, free laundry and small kitchens. He does not cook at all, but there is a Subway on the first floor and several other places nearby. He hates to drive in Houston traffic, so it will be the best solution for him. For food, he wants chicken fajitas and homemade brownies after being gone.

    Cassandra I remember my DD expressing her reservations about one apartment because it didn’t have granite, and us telling her we thought we could cope. I think even about 30% of freshman can’t get on-campus housing.

  56. The one food DH and I really miss is Hideaway pizza. We eat it at least 2-3 times when we go back home.

  57. @Lemon – It was Buddy’s. But I see that there is an Alibi by the office in Troy too. I will be back there a few times at least this year…

  58. All I know is that the dorm food is so vastly improved from when I was at school that it was virtually unrecognizable when I went back. Except for the frozen, baked food service chicken Kiev, which was exactly the same as when I was in school. Same for the Swedish meatballs, which I believe were always homemade. (I do love Minnesota.)

    I liked the dorms, but I also enjoyed living off campus my last 3 semesters. I ate mostly cheap junk when I was off campus though. I ate better when I could at least hit the salad bar once in awhile in the cafeteria.

  59. Ivy – You must try Alibi! The crust is like no other. Also get the antipasta salad because the dressing Ah-mazing!

  60. I’ve never been all that keen on some of the other local “specialties” like beef sandwiches

    I never understood what was so great about them either when I lived there.

  61. Now I’m more excited to go back to Troy. Thanks Lemon!

    I was shocked that the girl in Wisconsin was found too. The situation is still very sad, but amazing that she is physically ok.

  62. “Cassandra I remember my DD expressing her reservations about one apartment because it didn’t have granite, and us telling her we thought we could cope”

    When my kid was in his off-campus apartment one reason he gave us for not cooking very much was that he didn’t have nice granite countertops! TBH it was a ratty apartment, made worse by the residents’ extremely poor housekeeping.

    When he later moved to NYC he mainly ate free work meals and takeout/delivery. In a way I don’t blame him and I would probably do the same because so many good restaurant choices. Also, besides business meals he has benefited from this “trend” of employers providing free food. Have you all seen an increase in this?

  63. The free meals – my workplace cut way back on this, because it got out of hand and non client related expenses needed to be reined in.

    On another note related to kids. DS showed us an email doing rounds among kids in his grade. It’s a email from the English teacher to the parents and copy to their kid. Apparently said kid marked choice “A” for one quarter of the questions on his exam, choice “B” for the next quarter, choice “C” for third quarter and choice “D” for last set of questions.
    The teacher in the email said that he had reviewed the exam portion with the kids and given them study guides. He was at a loss to understand the “why”.
    And said kid has since sent a copy of the message to friends with names attached.

  64. Everyone who works at Ben & Jerry’s headquarters in Burlington, Vt., is entitled to three free pints of ice cream for each day of work.

    Look, I like ice cream as much as the next person. I probably like ice cream more than the next person. But three pints a day, every day, five days a week? That’s too much ice cream.

  65. Louise, can you explain more? Is this a state test or something else?

    Rocky, yes, too much ice cream. Probably not a bug but a feature.

    For Finn and others, this is a student in the USC honors program. :) (I wonder if any totebaggers with personal experience in elite colleges would say this is not surprising at all. I mean, do top college students actually know this stuff?)

  66. Yeah, she’s a 2A activist so please ignore. (I was interested in just the knowledge part.)

  67. Back in the 80s my parents took me on a tour of a cigarette factory. Each employee got to take home two packs every day.

    Also on that tour each visitor got a free pack and kids (me) got a coloring book of propaganda. No one in my family smoked.

  68. July, my DH worked for a company in Manhattan for a while with the free lunches. This was back in the early 00’s. It seemed to be common in Manhattan even then – when I was jobhunting in 2007, most of the companies I interviewed at offered this perk. My DH says it is to prevent employees from leaving the office and hitting the restaurants. When I worked at the healthcare place, they did not offer this because there were no restaurants close enough for people to go to – everyone just brought their lunch and ate at their desks. My DH now works at a place in suburban Greenwich, and again, they don’t offer free food – there is an overpriced cafeteria but most people just bring their lunch. So I think this is mainly a trend for employers in areas where there are lots of appealing food options in the area around the offices, so that employees won’t leave the premises.

  69. 3 shift factories, especially ones in which collective bargaining or state law mandated a meal break always had on site cafeterias in the old days. When DH worked at the boston Fed, a 24 7 operation, he could get all three meals a day there.

  70. Back in the late 90s to almost 2001 (to me that will always be the Bill Clinton era) when it seemed that the stock markets would go on for ever, we had so much leftover food from different department breakfast and lunch meetings that one could just help themselves to the food in the pantry and never have to bring or buy their own meals. The cutbacks started creeping in after 2001.

  71. Some of the nursing homes I go to will let employees have leftovers after the meals. The only other place I’ve ever seen free food on a regular basis was at one of the practices where I did one of my clinicals. They had pharm reps coming on a daily basis who would bring lunch for the whole office.

  72. When I first started working in the late 80s, there was only one bank that offered a free lunch, JP Morgan. This was the legacy JPM that was for bank for private clients and blue chip corporate clients. Most of the other banks had large, subsidized cafeterias for their employees in all of their buildings. It was never free. Eventually, the employees at JPM were taxed on their “free” lunch because some how it moved from a perk to compensation. After the merger with Bank One, they didn’t even have free tea and coffee. Jamie Dimon didn’t believe in spending any money on his employees. The Starbucks across from the merged Chase/JPM/Bank One headquarters on Park Ave became one of the most crowded and profitable locations by square foot in the country. Jamie Dimon grew angry about all of the employees that he could see streaming down the escalators and across the street at Starbucks. So, he installed a huge Starbuck in the upper lobby of the headquarters, but it was not subsidized for his staff. I worked nearby and I would often meet my friends there because it had a great seating area. There is no free food for the rank and file at JPM these days.

  73. I have never had an official “free lunch” program, but most of the places that I’ve worked since leaving industrial manufacturing have had frequent free lunches and the suburban locations had subsidized cafeterias as well. The one at the home goods/kitchenwares company had a fabulous high-quality cafeteria that was 50% subsidized. Then I worked for an actual food company & you could probably guess that the food was very plentiful there.

    My current company has snacks, fancy coffee machines, coke freestyle machines with tons of flavors, stocked and unlocked beer fridges, and so much food lying around from meetings & such that there is a “food alert” email that sends out details. Yet, the millennials b*tch non stop that we don’t have free canned La Croix. (There is sparking water in the freestyle machines with multiple flavor options, for the record.)

    I think this is a “the rich get richer” thing where companies attracting in-demand talent all do this stuff.

  74. Meme – Most of the factories I have worked in or visited for work had vending machine breakrooms. Like the kind of vending machines with microwave cheeseburgers. But I never worked at a huge car plant or anything. The plant I did my cost accounting internship in had a large lunchroom and vending machines, but most people brown bagged. It was 10 miles from the nearest town ion the middle of a bunch of farms.

  75. Ivy – I think that this is common nowadays. My former employer was very old school at the factory sites, full hot meal subsidized cafeteria and onsite fully staffed medical office with ekg, xrays, etc.), even for retirees. Corporate HQ had satellite medical office and a 6 am to 3pm cafeteria. Cafeteria used to be in house employees, then outsourced, now probably like the lunchrooms you mentioned. Prime leased real estate HQ location was shut down 10 years ago (functions are with the acquirer in another state). I haven’t been to the factory since the acquirer cut off the retiree medical services access – about 8 years ago.

  76. Interesting. I have never worked at place with free meals. My first firm actually had an executive dining room with tablecloth service and all; while I was there, I believe they opened it up to the rank and file, but I only ate there a few times because it was both expensive ($7-8!) and uncomfortable – I never felt like I belonged.

    I have spent many, many days at both industrial plants and office parks. Almost all of the industrial plants had cafeterias; then again, they were also in the boondocks. Couldn’t tell if they were subsidized or if the areas were just cheap. What impresses me is the “modern” cafeteria setup in office parks (as in the corporate HQ-type huge complex). They have the “station” setup, with a couple of hot entrees, salad bar, sandwich/burger station, etc. Some of these have got to be subsidized – I ate at one that was whatever you wanted for like $3.25!

    Currently we don’t have any kind of food on-site, but we have two fridges for whatever you want to bring in, and the drinks setup is awesome – we are small enough that my office manager will just order whatever version of coffee/tea/soda/juice people want. We are a little jealous of DC, which has one of those fancy coffee machines that will make like 80 different varieties. Then again, NY still has to pay $0.50 for a cup of generic coffee from the communal pot,* so we’ve got it pretty good overall. 😉

    *The managing partner for each office makes the rules, and our guy in NYC is notoriously cheap – as in, he personally painted the offices rather than pay painters.

  77. One company I know in NYC offers its employees a Friday afternoon, 4pm, happy hour in office. Beer and wine only, as much as you’d like. I’d never heard of this, and thought this was more of an English thing since this company is London-based with many English employees here. They seem to “embrace” a more enthusiastic drinking culture, as in don’t try to keep up with them at happy hour!

    Free fancy coffee seems to be pretty common in NYC. I worked for a large company in NYC that had a subsidized cafeteria. But the free catered fancy lunches (at 9-5 offices btw) are something I never experienced.

    “he personally painted the offices rather than pay painters” wow!

  78. I once worked for the US branch of a European bank and they had happy hours with beer in the office. They also kept the leftover beer in the fridge. I can not think of ANY American bank that would take that risk in case something happened to the employee as a result of being drunk from alcohol that was distributed by their employer on premises.

    They also used to celebrate closed deals with champagne in the conference room. This was a great place to work until the financial crisis in ’08. It was where I hoped to work forever until the crisis hit. oh well.

  79. We have free coffee/tea from automated machines. Our vending machines have mostly water, some flavored. No juice, no soda. No paper cups or plastic ware on the floors. You have to go downstairs to the cafeteria to procure these items. I keep a few paper utensils and plastic ware at my desk.
    There is lemon infused water in the cafeteria which I love.
    I discovered in my health conscious co workers that some have a big soda habit. They are struggling to get rid of soda addiction.

  80. When I spent the summer doing research at a university in Germany, I discovered that lots of the labs, including mine, had the Friday afternoon happy hour. They kept a stash of beer and wine in the closet for this. After beers, we would often go to a Greek/Turkish restaurant with outdoor tables and continue on.

  81. LfB – wow my employers have gotten cheap now and then (I heard of having to share a hotel room with same sex coworkers) but no painting the office.

  82. We academics like to joke that one of the big differences between working at a Catholic university vs a public one is that at Catholic schools, it is normal to have booze at faculy events.

  83. They seem to “embrace” a more enthusiastic drinking culture, as in don’t try to keep up with them at happy hour!

    Hell, every event seems to embrace the drinking culture. Moms and Mimosas for Mother’s Day after dropping the kids off at school, every historical tour of a city involves drinking someplace historic, even churches have beer and wine at events, especially recruitment events. I personally think it’s kind of an issue, but no one else does.

  84. Painting the office is exactly what my old executive director would have done. We all had to take turns cleaning the fridge once a week because that’s a really good use of expensive employee time. Sheesh.

  85. In my office we recently had water bottle filling stations installed, with in-line filtering of the water.

    That’s as close as we get to free meals.

  86. Off topic – product reviews for Totebag recommended items that I purchased this holiday season.

    Balsam Hill Tree – waited till the prices came down and were closer to the Home Depot trees I saw. Really liked that the BH tree had clear and multicolored lights with remote, my family enjoyed changing the light colors. Comes with a storage bag, so no need to box it up for storage. Easy set up. Cons: the tree was heavier than a similar sized cheaper tree that I had. I would have gone for the flip tree but that was way more expensive.

    Dyson Dryer – Love it ! Dries my hair quickly and is great for controlling frizz, my hair nemisis made worse by the humidity here.
    Cons: the price. However, if you are unhappy with the different mid priced dryers, you have tried, this is one splurge you will be happy with.

  87. Lauren – I think that story tried to be “meta” so it could be in the times. It wasn’t a story about a tawdry divorce, it was a story about the story of the divorce. Therefore, okay for the Old Grey Lady to gossip about.

  88. I once worked at a place with fancy Odwalla juice in the Dr.’s lounge. People knew when it was stocked and come in a grab a few. They took that away pretty quickly; back to just diet coke. The trend is to have no lounge now. :( The official line was that because doctors control admission to the hospital, and admissions make money, the Stark provisions (medical anti-kickback) prevent them from giving us fancy juice. I think it just was because people were greedy. We had a bottomless tureen of soup in medical school, about three cheap rotating flavors, available about 8 hours per day. It was actually a pretty good perk.

    It is the standard on the west coast to have alcohol in the non-medical workplace (even Amazon has casual workplace events featuring beer purchased by the company, to be consumed at the desk on company time). DH has had a lot of workplaces in the past decade and all of his employers have kept supplies on site for beer:thirty. Current job is with a big employer, minimal benefits, but costco granola bars and craft brew always around. Sounds like heaven.

  89. Louise, does your family make your own garam masala and other spice mixes, or do you buy pre-mixed?

  90. RMS – we do buy premade Garam masala but more often we will grind different spice combinations to make a “masala” instead of using the pastes you get pre made in the jars.
    Quick garam masala at home is a combination of cinnamon, cardamom and cloves.

  91. I have a few follow ups.
    – Received “Smitten Kitchen Every Day” cookbook for Christmas, and it may be one of my all time favorites. Recipes are easy to follow but complex enough to be interesting. Heavy on vegetables and hearty vegetarian dishes. Highly recommend.
    – After the TMI post, I ordered some Jockey boy short underwear to wear under my work-out capris (because like other, I am firmly in no-commando camp but also bothered by VPL). I hate them. They are so un-shaped its like wearing those mesh-panties they give you after you deliver. Is this style not for me, or should I try a different brand?
    – I start PT today for a running injury. Have never done PT before. Any tips? Feeling stupidly nervous, illogically afraid they’re just going to tell me my running days are over.

  92. “What impresses me is the “modern” cafeteria setup in office parks (as in the corporate HQ-type huge complex). They have the “station” setup, with a couple of hot entrees, salad bar, sandwich/burger station, etc. Some of these have got to be subsidized – I ate at one that was whatever you wanted for like $3.25!”

    Yes – this is what I had at suburban office park companies in the past. And subsidized so that the prices were well below market – mostly just over food cost with the price of the

    We have the fancy coffee machines too (where you choose your drink from an iPad), but the plain brewed coffee is atrocious, so I just bring my own.

    @RMS – I also think that the drinking tie in to some events has gotten a bit out of hand. I mean, I am definitely a social drinker, but I generally don’t need or want a drink at a Tuesday afternoon event, and sometimes it can be awkward.

  93. Lark, the PT people will not tell you to stop running. Their whole mindset is getting people back to whatever they were doing. When I did PT about 3 years ago, I saw athletic types from high schoolers to middle aged guys, all trying to get back to their sports after injuries.

  94. Louise, what is different about the Dawson that keeps frizz down? My current hairdryer broke and I need to replace it ASAP. Frizz is a big problem for me so would love a better hair dryer. Is it a specific model?

  95. Thanks! Amazon lists it, though, at $399. That is way out of my league for a hairdryer!!! I think my last one cost $25. That is probably why my hair is frizzy.

  96. “Have never done PT before. Any tips? ”

    Lark –
    +1 to what MM said.

    My tips:
    – Be honest with them that you’re concerned about not being able to continue to run like you did before; this will help get them on your side
    – Do whatever exercises they give you as much as they direct you. If they hurt at any point stop them.
    – If you’re put on a no running hiatus till all this passes, ask them what you can do for cardio in the meantime. And even if you feel great, don’t jump into running too far too soon.

    Good Luck.

  97. @MM – I have heard from friends that the refurbished Dyson is just the same for $250 vs. $400. Still more than I am willing to pay for a hairdryer. I bought a $125 hair dryer from Costco recently hoping it would be better than the $30 ones that I usually get, and I actually don’t like it all that much. It doesn’t blow the air very hard, even though it supposedly has other great features. Meh. But my hair is very fine and wavy….so it does frizz, but I don’t need a megawatt hair dryer because my hair dries really quickly anyway.

  98. “Have never done PT before. Any tips? ”

    Don’t skip any sessions, whether at the PT office or at home, unless physically unable.

    Budget some extra sleep time.

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