Student shares recipe for free food on campus

By Seth Mayer

Milton Friedman once famously said, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.” For a week I tested Friedman’s hypothesis and embodied the free-rider problem, only receiving nourishment from free food at campus events.

Could a vegetarian philosophy concentrator survive with nothing but his reporter’s notepad and an empty stomach to fill? Only the empirical research of truly rigorous journalism would tell.

Monday lunch—I go to the Biological Sciences Division’s Microbiology Seminar, which has something to do with a lengthy word containing three or so Xs, and I don’t see a table set up for food. My experiment has begun with failure.

The free fruit bowl at the GSB has got my back, though. Aramark employees ensure six full bowls in the GSB lobby are stocked throughout the day, thanks to a couple of rich people who decided to make the lives of the budding business elites all that much better. I grab a couple of apples and give three cheers for global capitalism!

Monday dinner-—I learn all about the work of a guy named Schlomo, who analyzed style and authorship using computer science. With such a great spread—crackers, cheese, hummus, and wine—it’s clear that the folks at the Franke Institute of Humanities have class. I have two glasses of white wine, and a very nice woman asks me to sign up for some computing listhost. I awkwardly jot my address down and quickly leave before I am asked to join any other computer-nerd groups.

Next up is “The Roots of Mexican Migration,” where a kindly nun explains to us in Spanish why NAFTA is terrible. The Mexican food makes my tummy hurt, but it is delicious nevertheless.

Tuesday lunch—I go to a Christian Study group. On my way there, I feel a lot of anxiety that I will be converted or told that I am going to Hell. Everyone is very nice, and they even have vegetarian sandwiches. The speaker refers to Ingmar Bergman, Nietzsche, Freud, and John Mearsheimer. He clearly knows he is at the U of C.

Tuesday dinner—At a talk on Theodor Herzl sponsored by Jewish studies, some guy asks me what I am studying as I load up on crackers, cheese, and wine. I feel like I’m at a bar mitzvah, but he seems like a really nice guy. He wishes me luck in my free food “research.”

Slightly buzzed from the wine, I head over to see the movie Paradise Now, sponsored by the Muslim Students Association, and eat vegetable samosas. The Christians, Jews, and Muslims have fed me today. You’re slacking, Hindus and Buddhists.

Wednesday lunch—Did you know that my free food week coincided with Hepatitis B Awareness Week? Luckily for my disease-free self, it did, and that meant more free food for me. The Pritzker School of Medicine has a lecture on the disease but serves little vegetarian-friendly food. I resort to eating several platefuls of rice.

In order to compensate for this oversight on their part, I steal a cookie from the dedication of the Gordon Center, named after the president and chairman of Tootsie Roll Industries. I am scolded by a caterer who apparently wants to make sure only the “invited guests” get cookies. Only wealthy donors who drove here in their Mercedes or Lexus are deserving of refreshments, apparently. The cookie is only mediocre, and there aren’t even any Tootsie Rolls, to boot. My girlfriend also buys me a milkshake, and while it isn’t technically free, for a dollar it might as well be.

Wednesday dinner—I go see a talk sponsored by the Committee on Social Thought where Polish poet Adam Nagajewski talks about the nature of poetry in the 20th century. I am sad when I discover that the committee seems too preoccupied with society to provide me with free food. It looks like I will go sans dinner tonight. This is your legacy, Leo Strauss. This is your legacy

Thursday lunch—Professor Dennis Hutchinson talks at the Law School about former Justice Harry Blackmun. A sign says the law firm sponsoring the lunch is a “platinum” level donor. The talk in the next room is only “gold” level. The contrast between the box lunches at both events seems to confirm this. I am happy with my choice—platinum, baby!

Thursday dinner—The Divinity School “alum of the year” gives a talk entitled “How My Mind was Ruined, or Saved: Later Reflections of a Nice Catholic Boy Who Came to The Divinity School in 1967.” I am glad to profit from his ruin/salvation by eating bruschetta, hummus, and mini-cake pieces, in addition to drinking non-sacramental wine.

Friday lunch and dinner—The Fate of the Disciplines conference is all day long. Listen, gentle reader, conferences are always a good call if you feel like getting hooked up with several days of free meals. I suggest taking my lead and making sure not to schedule any classes on Fridays to keep this day open for sleeping in and/or mooching. The conference offers some fine Chinese food for lunch. And, oh my, dinner was bread, cheese, vegetables, chips and guacamole, and the best raspberry tart ever for dessert. Throw in some wine for good measure. Again, the Franke Institute has fed me well and capped off a week of freeloading with a culinary experience of epic proportions.

Meditations—In retrospect, I learned some important lessons that I can pass on to you, intrepid reader. First of all, you can drink free wine every night if you play your cards right. If you want to get free food, you have to be ready to sign up to receive annoying e-mails for events you won’t attend (unless you’re sure that free food will be there, of course).

In addition, you can eat little else beyond cheese and crackers every day and still avoid getting scurvy. And if you plan on living off of free food, always have a backup plan, because you never know if you’ll be let down by whatever institute, center, or group is trying to make you learn things outside of class.

After attending many events, I’ve had a great week learning about a multitude of subjects and, well, learning a lot about myself. For instance, I’ve learned that I lack the dignity to worry about what living off of free food for a week says about my character. And finding things like that out is what college is all about, isn’t it?