I admit it. I am a big, big, big, free food junkie. Food-bot.com is like my idol. I have, in the distant past, gone to extreme levels of inconvenience to attain access to free food. I didn’t do this very happily – there were extreme levels of guilt, but not as much as there would have been had I actually spent money in a real restaurant. I have damaged my reputation much in the past due to this addiction. Fortunately, things changed a lot last year when I got time to settle into an apartment and have a kitchen mostly to myself. There is nothing more tastier, relieving, and cheaper than your self-made tasteless mash-up of ingredients. But just like any Bollywood movie, there needed to be a villain in my happy-go-lucky life. Here it was, the monstrous, mysterious and ever so deceiving: FAT. Having a kitchen to a modestly homely non-exercising student who loves food meant that you tend to make a lot, a lot and a lot of food. And so, recently, I decided to change my lifestyle and go back to embracing free food events so that I can defeat this evil villain. Early results: that shit’s not working. And I blame that on Pittsburgh’s free food (basically replace Pittsburgh with any US college city for your context) as opposed to Qatar’s free food.
Here is the gist of my argument: food in events in the CMU campus in Pgh (from now to be referred to as CMU-P) is fudging fattening. On the other hand, food in events on the CMU campus in Doha, Qatar (from now to be referred to as CMU-Q) is healthy. Despite reducing my meal count every day to ONE in CMU-P, I don’t see any good happening because free food here, 97% (according to a fake Nielsen report) of times is Pizza or some other really junky crap. On the other hand, free food in Qatar is either some Arab junk food or some small number of times, Pizza. And that’s because Pizza is not such a utility as it is in CMU-P.
So what’s important to know is that there is good junk food and then there is bad junk food. Everything I end up eating in CMU-P free food events is bad junk food. Layers of floating oil on 3 levels of cheese on a pre-oiled thick whole-flour bread, i.e. pizza, leads the pack. The only available side in most cases in packs of oily fried chips, and the drink option almost always is a i-want-to-ruin-your-teeth-and-stomach soda. Or there is the occasional sandwich, with 6 layers of Swiss cheese and olive oil for taste. Not healthy as your average fruit either.
On the other hand, I consider junk food in Doha to be good junk food. Fataayer (a 1/4 in thickness bread base) is your perfect pizza replacement – often served with some tasty zaatar (a god damn herb topping) just feels like pleasure to the taste buds. And if there is the occasional halloumi cheese, there amount is limited and it not burned to perfection. Falafel and shawarma wraps are kept really simple, and the fried contents are often really little. The sides include labneh (yes, as simple as a freaking yoghurt), hummus (mashed chick-peas with occasional drops of oil), babganoush (egg-plant), tabouleh (fine chopped parsley leaves), dolma (grape leaves wrapping non-fried rice), etc. How more simple and non-fatty could good tasting food get?! Not only that – there is an intentional focus on keeping it healthy. These all happen to be very finger snack-ish, which means it is almost as simple as grabbing pizza slices or sandwiches.
And thus, my proposal: I know pizza is easily accessible and cheap everywhere around campus, and the free delivery guy doesn’t mind not being tipped, but please take some time and think about how disgusted every person like me attending your event is from eating such unhealthy food. Trust me, we will love you, do more for you and even get people to pay for your events – just if you can learn this little small lesson from free food events at our little sibling campus in the desert of the Gulf.