Bowing down to the demon ramen and other collegiate culinary indignities and delights
September 10th, 2012
12:00 PM ET
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Editor's note: this is a part of FN Dish's Back to School Communal Table. Follow #pullupachair on Twitter and see other contributions below.

Sometimes, late in the night, the craving comes to me. I fight it, as I must, for the sake of decency and taste and everything I have strived for as a grown-up human being. I cannot...I will not...I must not...pour bottled Zesty Italian salad dressing over a heap of drained ramen noodles and slurp down the whole hot, harsh mess hunched over the kitchen counter in my bare feet. Even though (as I recall) it would be freaking delicious.

I swore an oath as art school ended - my best friend and I vowing in a low-rent, modern-day Scarlett O'Hara sort of way that we'd never again sustain ourselves on $.25 noodle packets, generic mac & cheese, off-label dried soup packets, past-their-sell-by-date baked goods and the other cheap but filling foodstuffs that have sustained broke students since the dawn of time (or at least the invention of the microwave). "Bowing down to the demon ramen," she called it. I nodded and agreed - she'd just always known better about grown-up things like that - but that didn't stop the pangs.

A few of my other college favorites:

– Boxed spaghetti with margarine (seriously - who could afford butter?), black pepper, curry powder and as much shake-on Parmesan cheese as I could spirit out of the pizza place in a napkin

– Boxed macaroni & cheese made with either the margarine or the milk (buying both at once wasn't in the cards most weeks) and as many mustard packets as I could get my paint-stained paws on

– Salad bar vegetables stir fried with peanut butter, duck sauce packets, white rice and an egg in my electric wok

– Baked potatoes with globs of cheap hot sauce or barbecue sauce mashed in with a fork

I'm ostensibly a grown-up lady now, one with actual metal silverware that didn't come as a supermarket giveaway, wedding china, cups not acquired at ballgames and fast food restaurants, and I swear I haven't hoarded condiment packets for at least a decade. But I can't say I'm not physically restraining myself from running down to the dollar store, nabbing the cheapest brick and bottle I can find, and shame-eating the whole concoction with the blinds down.

Let me know I'm not alone - post your favorite college food concoction in the comments below and we'll share them in an upcoming post.

I...have an errand to run...

P.S. Yes - ramen can be extremely fantastic, artistic and artisanal. I just didn't know that in college. Here are a few ways our iReporters like to get their ramen on.

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Filed under: College • Favorites • Stunt


soundoff (901 Responses)
  1. louie6025

    peanut butter and jelly sandwich!! the most delicious and easiest sweet and salty combination

    September 10, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
    • dsch26

      Or peanut butter and honey. Living off some of this stuff now since only working pt. Well over half my meals come from work since its a restaurant, but limited in what I can get from there due to medical issues. SO, at home living off "mock tuna casserole" (mc and cheese with a small can of peas and tuna), same setup with chicken and corn instead of the tuna/peas, pb&j, pb&h, cup noodles, and grilled cheese. Just sort of splurged by making mini quiches, egg sub, half and half, cheese and turkey bacon (got 3 for price of 1 :) )....yummy. And freezes really well

      September 10, 2012 at 8:54 pm |
  2. opinion

    Spagetti noodles with ketchup and parmesan cheese!!!!! Oh so good to this day but it makes my husband gag!

    September 10, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
  3. Aubrie

    Miracle whip and sugar sandwiches....... cold, canned bean dip on saltines with tabasco......bouillon cube with hot water and a green onion........(WISHING I had some Raman).........celery sticks with peanut butter or miracle whip.... rice with cream of chicken soup.....diced corn dog with noodles..... stewed figs from the fig tree growing in the middle of campus........ tortillas with margarine and honey packet from the student center......god.... thinking of this I want to retch.....

    September 10, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
  4. Julie

    Malt-o-meal! Who needs stuff that requires cooking?

    September 10, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
  5. Scott B

    Our local convenience store had a huge hard cookie that could be a whole meal for only 25 cents. I later found out it was made from expired donuts that were compressed and re baked. I no longer live in the area, but I still have cravings for them. I wonder if they ship?

    September 10, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
    • Julie

      This reminds me of how we used to take those 99 cent just-add-water cookie mix bags and bake the whole thing up at once in a bread pan.

      September 10, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
  6. DrSoil

    With this economy down turn, I might have to go back to 25 cents demon ramen and hoarding condiment packets when I retire.

    September 10, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
  7. Lucida

    The best was taking a "Cup A Soup", pour in boiling water, crack an egg on the top then sprinkle with Shake-on Parmesan Cheese. Then you simply cover for a few minutes. This would pouch the egg and then you can stir it together and eat! YUM.

    September 10, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
    • Lucida

      I meant cup noodles not cup a soup, though probably that would work too.

      September 10, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
  8. HannaH

    Tuna fish from the can, cream cheese (if I was lucky) and crackers. Breakfast/lunch/dinner of champions!! Also, tuna and mac 'n cheese or hot dog and mac 'n cheese. Still do the hot dog thing but fancier mac 'n cheese and sausage.

    September 10, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
  9. flaco comir

    As if cannabis has nothing to do with these recipes!

    September 10, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
    • Aubrie

      Laughed out loud on this one!!!!! yeah.... I think you're right.

      September 10, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
    • Christina

      hahahaha, made me LOL also and you are most likely correct!!

      September 10, 2012 at 9:23 pm |
  10. Eat

    Pork and Beans can be spiced up a bit with Spaghetti or chili sauce mix- not too much.

    September 10, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
  11. The Jackdaw

    CNN is acting like this is new news. Didn't any of their writers go to college? And this diet continues long after college for those of us not lucky enough to become a 1%er immediately, thanks to outrageous student loans and increasing costs of living.

    September 10, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
    • The Witty One@The Jack something

      Seeing as how school just started for the folks persuing their higher edumacation, I think this is an extremely relevant post. Especially since times are so tough right now. I think encouraging college kids to think outside the box makes a great story.

      So there.

      September 10, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
      • The Jackdaw

        Fair enough I suppose.

        September 10, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
        • The Witty One@The Jackdaw

          I think you may have just broken the internet...

          September 10, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
        • The Jackdaw

          Because I listened and didn't argue? hahaha, probably!

          September 10, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
      • Zane Mathis

        If only times were really that hard.

        September 10, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
        • The Jackdaw

          Aren't they though? I remember my first job after college. It paid 18K. I only took it because nothing else was available. Things got better and I survived because I had 4 roomates, but Ramen nudles were a staple.

          September 10, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
    • Freddy

      I just graduated from college and started my new job 3 months ago. I already got promoted into a upper level management position. Its called working hard. Something the 99% freaks no nothing about. Success isn't handed to you... you need to work and get it.

      September 10, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
      • The Jackdaw

        I work for non-profit agencies. I have been promoted many times and only now am I making about 50K. It depends on your field.

        September 10, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
  12. The Witty One

    I liked to eat my Ramen with a little Filet thrown in for protein, with shaved white truffles on top....mmm mmm mmm!

    September 10, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
    • carrie t

      Saffron.....don't forget the saffron

      September 11, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
  13. rro

    Who could live without the San Francisco treat? Back when Chicken Wings and gizzards were around 10 cents a pound.

    September 10, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
  14. RavioliMan

    My mouth still waters at the thought of a huge can of Chef Boyardee Ravioli with as much sawdust (fake parmesan) you could steal from the pizza joint down the street.

    September 10, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
  15. Chesdic

    Chop up half an onion, mix it with a bit of butter and put in the microwave for a minute. Chop up sandwich meat or boil an egg with the ramen water and set aside. While that's going on heat up a can of corn. Cook the noodles for just a minute in the boiling water, remove from heat, add the powder packet, onions, meat/egg, and corn to the noodles and viola, it's no longer demon ramen. You can get creative for cheap and eat better at the same time.

    September 10, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
  16. Mike H.

    Boil some rice noodles in water flavored with a Maggi Cube. A good alternative to Ramen Soup and the rice noodles are tastier.

    September 10, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
  17. hungry in MN

    my friends and I had to scrape together money for a combo meal of day old chicken, chinese broccoli, and white rice back in college on multiple occasions. That was the good stuff. And yeah the place was known for pesky bugs you can imagine. Thus the price was so low, but we still had to scrape together money for a meal. Oh the good 'ol days.

    September 10, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
  18. cc

    sliced spam + 2 fried eggs + sticky asian rice + soy sauce (low sodium to be healthy)

    lived on it my freshman year in college

    gained 15 lbs but not sure if that was this dish or the beer

    September 10, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
  19. Bill

    For a treat, I would eat the 99 cent Buddig lunch meat packs on wonderbread!! They had processed turkey, processed beef, and any other meat that you could process.

    September 10, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
  20. Jess

    Totinio's pizza. My roommates and I used to fill our freezer up. Then we labeled them so we could tell them apart.

    September 10, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
  21. TOMcat

    Potatoes! Are you kidding? The cheapest food you can buy when in college is potatoes! $3 for a 10lb bag, and you can eat for a month!. Baked, mashed, fried. The only accessories you'd need would be some milk (for the mashed), margarine (or splurge on butter), oil or shortening, and salt and pepper. I can recall going months on just potatoes; maybe throwing in some chicken or pork chops when I could afford it.

    September 10, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
    • flaco comir

      You are University of Belfast alumni?

      September 10, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
    • sha

      Yup. Potatoes and cabbage. I could list 100 ways to eat potatoes and cabbage.

      September 10, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
  22. hecep

    A friend of mine at college used to eat white rice with peanut butter. He swore by it.

    September 10, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
  23. Ray

    In college, if I was feeling bourgeois, I would add a cut up hot dog to my Ramen noodles cooked in a hot pot.

    September 10, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
    • SnapinTurtle

      Enemy of the proletariat. You are probably a nationalist too.

      September 10, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
      • Loki of Asgard

        Sometimes Cheez Its and $3 wine made me feel like royalty!

        September 10, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
    • Eat

      Shameless extravagance.

      September 10, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
    • Loki of Asgard

      But didn't Cheez its and $3 wine make you feel like royalty? Let the rest of the peasants eat cake!

      September 10, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
  24. tvn22

    50 cent cans of Campbells chicken noodle soup with 1 egg dropped in occassionally with rice ;)

    September 10, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
  25. Charles

    for a healthy alternative, steamed rice with soy sauce and furikake

    September 10, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
  26. Elle

    Ramen mostly drained with the flavor packet, canned chicken and Jack Daniel's mustard stirred in.

    September 10, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
  27. rick

    Restaurant two pack of crackers and Tobacco sauce, still do it at restaurants.

    September 10, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
    • Aletheya

      I really hope you meant "tobasco sauce"... although I had roommates who always had a wad of chew in their mouth, so anything is possible I suppose.

      September 10, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
      • Christina

        If you wanna play "spelling cop", know how to spell the word before you "correct" others!

        It's "TABASCO"! :D

        September 10, 2012 at 9:31 pm |
  28. afromme

    A super fancy meal was chicken, broccoli and pasta. That was living

    September 10, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
  29. Trey

    Calling Ramen Demonic is a sign of intolerance.
    blessed be his noodly appendage.
    /R amen

    September 10, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
    • Thomas

      FSM!! :-)

      September 10, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
  30. SnapinTurtle

    Grits, with margarine and a lot of salt a pepper. If I was lucky and had cheese on hand, I would melt a half of slice into them. I ate a good deal of grits, but I did like them. I still do, they must be the right consistency though. This southerner disputes the theory that you should be able to eat them with a fork. They should be runny enough to require a spoon, but thick enough that they will sit on a mound in said spoon without running off the edge like broth – and that is the extent of my culinary expertise.

    September 10, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
  31. NanH

    Cereal, no one has mentioned cereal, the generic of the generic corn flakes with about 2 tbs of powdered milked mixed 3 to 1 with water, sugar in the form of packets borrowed from, well anywhere you could find it

    September 10, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
  32. tabgar

    Chicken Ramen mixed w/ generic tomato soup

    September 10, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
  33. Fatherof3

    I suggest that you retract this article as soon as possible. Ramen or "Instant Noodle" should not be a suggestion to college kids. I was born in Asia and since I was young, my parents always tell me never eat "instant noodle" too much. It is not meant to substitute a real meal. For one, it has no nutritional value and it is made using MSG. If you search the news hard enough, some kids actually die from eating ramen. My aunt's son actually died from it because he lived alone at school and had limited funds. He ate too much ramen that he was found dead from mal-nutrition.

    September 10, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
    • Loki of Asgard

      It's college, people join clubs for the free food (pizza), nutrition isn't high on their list.

      September 10, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
  34. tina

    i lived off of mac & cheese with a can of tuna and water chestnuts for a hot dish. And rotini pasta with a can of tuna, water chestnuts and ranch dressing or mayo for a cold salad.

    September 10, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
  35. Maria

    My college roommate and I would cook the ramen noodle packets in my (illegal) hotpot, make rice in her (illegal) rice cooker, then eat the noodles and when they were gone, keep adding rice to the leftover noodle broth until it was all gone too. We usually ate like that for breakfast and dinner the last week of each month until we got our next month's allowances.

    September 10, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
  36. HenryMiller

    Bologna fried in an electric skillet.

    Wacky cake, most of the recipe for which I've forgotten but it had vinegar in it, mixed with a kitchen whisk mounted in an electric drill, and baked in the same electric skillet with the lid on it.

    Rice-cooker rice (my room-mate was Japanese...) with butter, Parmasan cheese, and bacon bits or diced hot dogs.

    Hamburgers sautéed in a butter-and-cheap-red-wine sauce.

    September 10, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
  37. BenJaMun

    Home made pinto beans on white bread topped with a slice of the government cheese. My dad gave my room mates and I a 40lb bag from Sams. Beans and Ramen goes without saying. I was a an art student as well. We were so obsessed with Ramen that we started a competition to see who could make the best sculptures out of the stuff. It was a cheap art material.

    September 10, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
  38. carolyn

    Ramen noodles plus parmesan cheese, basil and pepper. Aaaallllmost tasted like pesto.

    September 10, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
  39. Julie MS

    cold ravioli or bake beans & franks from a pop open can during late nights studying in the library.

    September 10, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
  40. Steel78

    Apparently you people don't care about sodium.....

    September 10, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
    • dsch26

      If they're anything like me, they don't use the flavor packet (or a very small portion of it) or rinse off the seasoning in the cup o soup. I don't do salt, so I rinse off the majority of the seasoning in the cup o soup, or barely sprinkle a touch of the seasoning if eating ramen. Just enough to flavor it. Not everyone can afford to be picky

      September 10, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
    • lori

      live and let live

      September 10, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
    • sha

      Agreed. No flavor packet. The noodles still have sodium but it is the flavor packet that packs a whammy. Anyway, I was young and it was the 1980's. What did I know back then? I was just a starving student trying to make ends meet by working two jobs and going to school full time. I do remember food shopping with a roommate one time though. We discussed what it would be like to actually be able to afford a name brand food and some kind of meat once in awhile. I also longed for the day when I could afford macadamia nuts and asparagus once in awhile.

      September 10, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
    • nosaltnow

      we do now!!!

      September 10, 2012 at 5:28 pm |
  41. Caro McC

    how many people, after reading the article and comments, are planning a ramen noodle run after work? I am!!!

    September 10, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
    • DESIREE

      me too! i crave it occasionally. :)

      September 10, 2012 at 8:25 pm |
  42. Trin

    wow – this article reads like some amateur audition for poet laureate or something. Step down from your grammatical high horse and write like a human being!!

    September 10, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
  43. Current student

    Am I the only one who is nauseated by the descriptions of this dreck?
    I'm a current college student.
    Last Saturday, I cooked, in the dorms, and had lobster and NY strip steak.
    That's college food.

    September 10, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
    • john2655

      good for you. Some of us were very poor. I'm a doctor now, but remember so days oh so well.

      September 10, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
    • tim

      are you serious??? you spoiled brat. i am laughing at you Ha ha

      September 10, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
    • B

      If mommy and daddy were neatly depositing heaps of money into my account, I'd eat that everyday, too. Not everyone can be a trust fund baby. If that's your own money, I'd like to see a post about what you're eating a few months from now when all of your funds are dried up.

      September 10, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
    • Kat Kinsman

      Well, I went from eating that dreck to being the editor of a national food website, so I suppose it turned out okay. Food isn't just the haute - it's the high, low, and everything in between.

      And it was all I could afford.

      September 10, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
      • Lucifer's Evil Twin

        Touche' – well played Ms. Kat

        September 10, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
    • Bethany

      I would never eat like that again, but I remember those days fondly and am craving Ramen and mac & cheese.

      September 10, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
    • Alex

      Yeah, but cafeteria food has gone up in quality since many were in college so caf was not an option years ago. So you made it yourself.

      September 10, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
    • sha

      I put myself through college on my own. I worked two part time jobs and went to school full time. After tuition, books, rent etc. there was very little left over for food. I had to make every dollar stretch. Now, I have a good paying job and can afford to eat any way I want but I still watch my budget. Just because I can afford to eat lobster and steak everyday doesn't mean I should. I put my money into savings for retirement or in case I lose my job like some many others have.

      September 10, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
  44. MikeyZ

    Cost of living increases in this country are nonlinear. Not everything escalates the same.

    My first year in college away from home was 1986. Back then, ramen sold at six packets for a dollar.

    Fast-forward to 2012. It is not unusual to find places that *still* sell ramen packets at six for a dollar.

    September 10, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
    • dsch26

      Yep....the safeway by me has the bundles of 10 or 12 for $2.00. Although I prefer the cup o soup because it has the veggies :)

      September 10, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
  45. Hien

    – 2 cups of day-old white rice
    – 1 leftover instant noodle seasoning packet
    – 1 egg

    Put it all together in a bowl and mix well, then pan fry it to your desired done-ness (I actually prefer leaving the egg a little bit wet). Enjoy; it should keep you full for 2 consecutive meals.

    September 10, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
  46. Polar Bear

    I was a powdered mac & cheese guy. Still have the pot I cooked it in. 'Tis the way it is in college.

    September 10, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
  47. UnSub

    Amazing we all ate these terrible meals while we were in college while others are on food stamps eating nice proteins other pleasantries

    September 10, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
    • Tay

      It's funny, I was about to say, this diet is not just that of broke college students, just the broke in general. Workin hard, eatin pb&js for lunch at work every day, so the lazy can go get lobster with the food stamps that I help fund. Totally fair. Ugh.

      September 10, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
  48. Dan J.

    Wasn't quite *that* broke in college, but the diet stayed for quite some time after hitting the workforce.
    2 bags bread – 3.98
    2 packs chicken hot dogs – 1.98
    1 jar knock off cheeze whiz – 2.19 (when I was feeling exotic)
    20 packs Mr. Noodles – 4.50

    For about $11, I could eat most of a month.

    September 10, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
    • MikeyZ

      Man, knockoff Cheez Whiz is getting desperate. That's like knockoff Spam.

      September 10, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
  49. anon

    none of this matters when a new poll shows that 54% of Americans believe a college education is "worth the investment" or"valuable" Aside from the medical / law / science and several other professions a college degree is something you can easily master, believe it or not, from the internet. iTunesU allows you to take FULL Harvard, Standford, Yale level 100-400 classes w/ lectures for the whopping price of free.

    September 10, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
    • Joe

      Did you go to Standford? Because you seem awfully smart.

      September 10, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
      • J

        Or maybe Stanford...

        September 10, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
    • Bill

      Ok. Goodwill Hunting

      September 10, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
  50. ksmithmorse

    There was a week where the only food I had left before I could afford groceries again was a loaf of bread and some random condiments and spices.

    Thus was born what is still to this day one of favorite snacks (though at the time it was a meal): mustard and garlic salt sandwiches.

    September 10, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      "mustard and garlic salt sandwiches" that's pretty hungry (and pretty resourceful!)

      September 10, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
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