Dissertation Special, with a Side of Aristotle

By Davis Hill, Staff Writer



You’ve finished your bachelor’s degree, have run the gauntlet of graduate school applications and have finally been accepted as a graduate student.

You thought you were poor as an undergraduate, but it’s much worse this time around. You’ve already maxed out your student loans, drained your parents dry and are without a cent to your name.

But you’ve got a graduate teaching assistantship. After tuition, rent, utilities and surprise educational costs, you’ve got about $20 a month for food.

Impossible? I think not. Simply follow the tips outlined in my new book, “Grad School Nutrition: How to Feed Your Body While Starving Your Mind,” and you’ll be eating well and saving money in no time. Here are some of my favorite recipes and tips, excerpted from the book:

Ramen Noodles:

Ramen noodles are an old standby that will never let you down, unless you’re looking for something with calories, vitamins or other nutritional content. They are cheap, versatile and easy to get hold of. Here are five of my favorite ramen recipes:

1. The Original: Boil it up in water.

2. The Hermit: Boil it up in hose water (a good source of calcium, magnesium and arsenic—at least if you live around here).

3. The Epicurean: Mix with whatever spices you’ve got in the cupboard.

4. The Supernova: That cute intern from the geology department coming over for dinner? Enliven the scene by serving your ramen with colorful Starburst candy glaze. Simply melt Starburst in a pan, mix in the ramen and serve. Note: second date not guaranteed.

5. The Cornflower: Dry, like a granola bar. It’s also great with peanut butter and jelly — but you can’t afford that.

The Dissertation Special:

Get out your best plate and silverware and lay them carefully on the table. In order to prepare yourself for the meal, picture the most delicious meal you can think of. Taste it in your mind. Feel its delicious texture. Slowly open your eyes and put the plate and silverware away. Now get back to work. That paper isn’t going to write itself.

The “Casserole”:

Eating on a tight budget is depressing, and the way you think about your food affects how it tastes and how it makes you feel. Try appending the word “casserole” to your meals: ramen becomes “noodle casserole,” a handful of old raisins becomes “fruit casserole” and so on.

Stone Soup:

Have you ever heard the old “Stone Soup” folktale? A pair of hungry travelers, with nothing but a pot, trick miserly villagers into making soup for everyone. The travelers start by boiling up a stone in their pot. As curious villagers come up and ask what they’re doing, the travelers explain they are making “stone soup,” which is delicious but would be made even better if the villager could donate a small amount of “garnish.” One by one, the villagers all agree to donate little bits of food and seasoning, until the travelers have a roaring pot of soup fit for the whole village. Make “stone soup” just like in the story, except, in order to save money, leave out the carrots, celery, meat, potatoes, leeks, onions and anything else donated by the villagers. Enjoy.

Barbecue Sauce:

Barbecue sauce is the most important thing you can have. It will pay for itself many thousands of times over. Why, you ask? Because barbecue sauce is so powerful, so full of rich spices and textures, that, by slathering it onto various household items, you can trick yourself into eating things that aren’t food. Using this method, you can gain nourishment from all sort of objects: shoes, clothing, photographs, souvenirs, old papers, pencils and most importantly:


The phrase “cooking the books” gets thrown around a lot when talking about things like school admissions, professional hiring practices, job qualifications, graduate theses or the 2000 presidential election, but here I’m speaking literally. When all your food and money has run out, you may feel hopeless, but don’t forget that, as a graduate student, you are still rich in one resource: books. In times of great need, books can be eaten for nourishment. When this happens, you need to plan carefully, lest you inadvertently—and literally—eat yourself out of a job. Be sure to eat them in this order: Philosophy, English, communications, any of the arts or humanities, physics, chemistry, math, biology, economics, government, business, history.

If you’ve run out of barbecue sauce, books, water, stones or anything else that was once organic, you may still have some hope left.

Many schools offer free, poorly-attended workshops and lectures, and provide refreshments in an effort to boost attendance. If graduate school is the wilderness, free workshops are the hunting grounds. Stake them out; learn how to subsist on a diet of chips, pretzels, carrot sticks and diluted punch.

You can do this. Two years isn’t that long to go without food. If you need more tips, don’t forget to buy my book, “Grad School Nutrition: How to Feed Your Body While Starving Your Mind,” which, by the way, is worth 800 calories.

Views expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the views of The Easterner.