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Walking through the snack aisles of Morton Williams, Fairway, or Duane Reade, students encounter food whose existence logic can’t explain. There are pizza-flavored Pringles, “chicken”-flavored snack crackers, and pretzels designed to mimic the flavor of buffalo chicken wings. Somewhere between savory thrill-seeking and sheer indulgence, this odd culinary phenomenon actually has a simple explanation: weed. Arguably the most popular illegal drug in modern America, marijuana has created its own culinary niche—one fittingly present in any college town. Indeed, stoner food has become as integral a part of the college food experience as dining hall grub and the edible freebies offered by clubs.
To better understand stoner food, one must first understand the stoner himself. After all, what is it that makes one drop what they’re doing and run down to Koronet's at three in the morning? According to Keith A. Sharkey and Quentin J. Pittman of the University of Calgary, marijuana affects the endocannabinoid system—a group of cells in the brain connected to eating and appetite—by mimicking the chemicals in the brain that trigger hunger. The end result? An insatiable desire for food—and a heightened sense of pleasure from sweet and savory foods. Thus, within minutes of smoking up, one may feel one’s starving subconscious guiding them along, as if on auto-pilot, to CrackDel for a Spicy Special.
The bastard child of drunk food and state-fair treats, stoner food is even more hedonistic than its parents. Stoner food must be cheap, it must not require extensive cutlery—if one can barely utter a cohesive sentence, why should one have to use a soup spoon—and preferably, it should be something one can enjoy at one’s own leisure, whether a Sulzberger-kitchen-created snack or a slice of Koronet’s eaten on the trip back to East Campus. Entire blogs, such as Stoner Food, cater to the altered-mind foodie, with recipes ranging from “Frozen Kiwis, Eaten with a Spoon” to “Toaster Pastry S’mores”—the former a relatively straightforward, if uncommon, approach to eating fruit, and the latter an orgy of Pop-Tarts, marshmallows, and dark chocolate. The meek need not visit this site—even while high, dishes like “Ravioli Pizza” are not for the faint of heart.
Of course culinary experimentation is relatively risky, and not exactly cost efficient. And herein lies the true joy of being a college student with a meal plan—an entire dining hall full of goodies to mix and match at one’s leisure. Those curious about the merits of a nutella, jam, and peanut butter sandwich with a side bowl of Captain Crunch slathered in plain fro-yo need not shell out exorbitant amounts at Morton Williams to get a taste of decadence. Besides mere culinary experimentation, however, dining halls can satisfy another tenet of stoner food law—late-night snacking. Legendary after-hours spot JJ’s Place is open until 1 a.m. five days a week and serves up glorious grease-bombs like chicken fingers, fried mozzarella sticks, and bacon cheeseburgers. Plus, the all-you-can-eat format is perfect for those who want to eat until the last trace of the munchies disappears. Right across Broadway, Hewitt Dining Hall offers funnel cake, ice cream, and pasta until 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday.
While it’s certainly considerate of the dining halls to keep late-night snackers in mind, there’s one problem with this stoner food quick-fix: most food options on campus fail to remain open on the weekends. Many students choose not to smoke or drink during the school week, so when the weekend comes and debauchery ensues tenfold, the cravings come powerfully. Fear not—there are plenty of spots around Morningside Heights that are perfect for the altered eater and that won’t burn a hole in your wallet.
Not surprisingly, Morningside Heights plays host to stoner food neighborhood clichés—a Spicy Special from CrackDel, a slab of Koronet’s pizza, and if it’s not too late at night, a lamb gyro from one of the halal carts like Hooda’s, on 115th and Broadway, which offers one of the most succulent versions in the area. The aforementioned all serve hearty, portable meals for less than five bucks—with whopping doses of sodium, saturated fat, and cholesterol to further subdue the already inebriated. Another stoner-food Shangri-La is, of course, Chipotle—and though it’s not exactly Koronet-cheap, its famous carnitas burritos are culinary gold for the buzzed. Last but certainly not least, there’s Roti Roll, an inexpensive Indian fast-food paradise open until 2 a.m. most nights. Their famous “Bombay Frankies” feature spicy, curried meats marinated to perfection and nestled in a plump, airy roll. Try a mango lassi for a sweet, refreshing antidote to the dreaded “cotton-mouth” that plagues even veteran stoners.
For its adventurous zeal, its daredevil aestheticism and its simple deliciousness, it’s easy to see why the idea of “stoner food” proves so popular on college campuses. After all, culinary hedonism is an enjoyable source of weekend entertainment for students. Some may argue that eating under the influence defeats the entire purpose of dining—that wolfing down a burger from M2M is to eating a four-course meal as scribbling frantically with crayons is to painting the Sistine Chapel. Critics such as these assert that food is an art best experienced with patience and an appreciation for slow, subtle flavors that take several courses to unfold. Still, judging from the ever-longer lines out the door at Koronet’s on Saturday nights, it appears that inebriated eating isn’t going anywhere any time soon. Eat your hearts out, stoners.
This is a revised version of the story which previously misstated that Chipotle is open at 3 a.m.
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