Whenever you ask someone about the best parts of Yale, you’ll be met with plenty of responses, ranging from adoration for the stunning architecture to the seemingly infinite number of interesting courses. As much as these contributed to my initial love for the school, there is still one part of the Yale experience that isn’t talked about enough: the pivotal role of food in memories. Before coming to Yale, I thought food was just that: food. I didn’t really appreciate the flavors, the variety, the experience and, most of all, I never realized how food could rouse a memory within me. 

When I taste tonkatsu ramen, I think of my suitemates’ laughs. Sitting around the back table of Mecha, we discuss the event of the week, first-year formal, chatting about the extravagant display of sushi, the massive drumsticks eaten like lollipops, and the ice sculptures straight out of Frozen. Even when I’m home, the smell of hot broth — inextricably tied to the jokes cracked over tonkatsu — brings me back to that moment. When I get hit by the smell of Korean Fried Chicken, I think of my suite’s tradition to buy Bonchon for the Sunday slate of NFL games. In between lively sports debates and hysterical cheers in support of our teams, we would eat wings and talk about recent happenings. From complaints over classes to news of a successful first date, Bonchon got to hear it all. 

Of course, we didn’t eat at Bonchon all the time, especially since Stiles, our college, had the best pizza of all. Every time I smell wood-fired pizza, I think about some of the first friends I made at Yale. Sitting around Stiles’ round table, they recount their weekend escapades to me as I chew on piping hot pizza. In fact, as I write this piece, my phone is lighting up with notifications from a group chat titled “Stiles Dinny.” What started as a group of people who happened to congregate at an arbitrary back table quickly evolved into lifelong friends — all due to Yale Dining™.

Stiles isn’t the only great dining hall, though. Whenever I pick up the Franklin dining hall lunch special of the day, I’m reminded of my love for learning. As a physics major, many of my classes are on Science Hill, making Franklin my lunch spot of choice. From lively discussion about recent physics news to debating the correct approach to a problem, the dining hall is home to our intellectual curiosity. At a certain point, it began to feel as though raving about whatever scientific breakthrough we learned about in that day’s lecture became a prerequisite for a “normal lunch.” Now, even after a mind-numbing lecture or a humbling midterm, I know that Franklin lunch will be there to reassure me that I’m spending my time well. 

Still, before any of the learning started, I had to get introduced to Yale somehow. Hailing from Kentucky, I really wasn’t sure what to expect. My knowledge of Yale came from stereotypes of Ivy League students and the occasional, “I heard New Haven has great pizza.” Enter Camp Yale. Whether it be marveling at the architecture, playing “rose, bud, thorn” with my newly acquainted froco group or meeting all the vibrant personalities and new faces on a night out, Camp Yale is part of my experience that is associated with only fond memories. A side effect of Camp Yale, however, was a new found addiction for Gobblers, GHav’s best sandwich. I can’t even go in there anymore without a craving for breaded chicken, mozzarella cheese, hot sauce and egg. Every time I buy a Gobbler — the frequency of which I’m too ashamed to admit — flashbacks of my week-long introduction to Yale resurface. 

These days, any time I taste a familiar flavor, I close my eyes and let the memories flow over me. My face slowly gives rise to a smile as I recall the first semblances of friendship with strangers who are now akin to family. I laugh internally about that week’s earth-shattering drama which ended up forgotten a couple days later. Most of all, I breathe a sigh of relief over how much good can come from just one short year. From transforming a daunting university into the home of some of my biggest grins, deepest laughs and craziest experiences, plus everything in between, I have to give my gratitude to food: Yale’s unsung hero.

Roshan Pourghasemi is a rising sophomore in Ezra Stiles College. Contact him at roshan.pourghasemi@yale.edu.