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MIT student blogger Shuli J. '22

four semesters in music and food by Shuli J. '22, MEng '23

just some lists and reminisces

Some of the bloggers have written before about the way that music playlists can come to define, and bring back memories of, semesters that are long gone. I was reflecting on this the other day as I happened to be scrolling through the packing playlist I made on spotify last month (mostly screamy songs about the end of the world, perhaps unsurprisingly). I don’t listen to as much music as I know a lot of other people do, and my tastes definitely aren’t as varied. I like to play the same songs on repeat. Like, a lot. (You can call my parents if you want to fact-check me, but be ready for their rant.)

This is also true of food; I like to eat the same things all the time. Like, a lot – although on this front I’ve gotten better recently! I’ve told the story once before on the blogs of how I went from a high schooler who never cooked anything to a college student who loves to cook for myself. As I move through the semesters at MIT, the food I choose to cook has come to be as defining, for me, as the music I like to play.

I thought I’d make a little post today about the music and the food that have gotten me through my first two years here, and that I think I’ll never listen to or eat again (respectively :P) without being reminded of some very specific moments.


Freshman Fall:

Genius (LSD – Labrinth, Sia, & Diplo)

Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell (Das Racist)

New Year’s Day (Taylor Swift)

Melodrama (Lorde album)

This was the very beginning of my foray into cooking. I learned how to make my mom’s chili (and it was almost as good!) I made (very bastardized) Japanese curry. I grilled mushroom, tomato, and turkey bacon sandwiches. I was basically just taking things and combining them, hoping desperately they would work, and then sending pictures of every single meal to my parents.

All the music Putz was obsessed with echoed down the hallways and got into my head; when I had time alone, I listened to some of my favorite chilling-in-the-world-by-myself music. I think the music of the semesters after this one is a lot more varied, which is definitely a reflection of the way I ventured out into more parts of campus and made more friends as time went on.


Freshman Spring:

Youngblood (5 Seconds of Summer)

break up with your girlfriend, i’m bored (Ariana Grande)

High Hopes (Panic! at the Disco)

Hamilton the musical

I didn’t actually eat any kraft easy mac (#lactoseintolerantgang), but I cooked dozens of servings for my a cappella concert. I had two classes and a UROP in the Stata Center and became obsessed with their lentil dal. Over March Break, I met my parents in LA, hit up so many farmer’s markets, and lived on the homemade granola I bought there all semester. I learned what it truly meant to be hosed, and put together some “sadness meal” dinners (what I call it when you need to eat, but you don’t have time or energy to cook): pasta, red sauce, hot dog.

While piloting an update to our sound system, Putz played High Hopes probably HUNDREDS of times. The other songs are ones my roommate played all the time. We would blast Hamilton together and sing along super loudly.


Sophomore Fall:

All Will Be Well (The Gabe Dixon Band)

Dance With My Father (Luther Vandross)

Lover (Taylor Swift album)

Dear Winter; 100 Bad Days (AJR)

Pachebel’s Canon (no link – pick your favorite version!)

After spending a summer at home cooking with my parents, I returned ready to make my own dal! I ate overnight oats for breakfast every single week, and started sometimes buying burritos from Jose’s mexican food truck for lunch. My friend introduced me to one of my still-favorite recipes, pasta e ceci (aka tomato pasta chickpea stew). I was even more hosed; my sophomore year sadness meal was rice noodles, chicken bits, soy-sesame sauce. Sometimes, I was even so hosed that I gave in and bought takeout: Pepper Sky pad see ew and scallion pancake, always.

My mom played me All Will Be Well off her spotify discover playlist, and although I don’t actually listen to the song that often, I hum the title couplet (all will be well / you can ask me how but only time will tell…) all the time.

My parents have always played Luther Vandross at home, but I never truly listened to the lyrics to this song until I was on a weekend groceries run to Porter Square (always an emotional time on its own, for reasons I only partially understand). Now I can add the long-ass Porter escalator to the list of places in Cambridge I have cried!

I wrote a blog post already about the Emotions that Lover makes me feel 😫

Putz was super into AJR and so I listened to a whole lot of it.

And 6.031, the love of my sophomore fall, had an absolutely life-changing class that ended with the professor standing on a table, proclaiming a fervent ode to the power of abstract data types, while the music-notes code we had written played the beautiful, stirring music of Pachbel’s Canon behind him.


Sophomore Spring:

Ecstasy of Gold (Ennio Morricone)

Good Things Fall Apart (Jon Bellion)

Animal (Neon Trees)

High School Never Ends (Bowling For Soup)

All The Small Things (Blink-182)

I made more dal, and started eating eggs (eggs!!! a real first for me). I got into tangerines, and started keeping them around all the time. Brothers Marketplace (a new grocery store right in Kendall Square) sold mangoes 5 for $5 and I gorged myself on whole, beautiful, perfect mangoes. On Mondays, I’d eat a homemade dinner at 6 before my 7-10 pm office hours shift; afterwards, I’d head over to Anna’s in the Stud and have a late-night second dinner of a rice-and-bean burrito bowl. (EDIT: OMG and how could I forget McCormick stirfry with my West Campus friends? Sorry guys 😅)

Now that I’m home, I’m getting into baking, like the rest of the world. Challah, and yeast-free flatbread. Trying and failing to recreate the burrito bowl… but at least I still have eggs.

I’m a 6.031 LA now, and someone put on Ecstasy of Gold during a grading meeting and my mind was blowwwwwn by the majesticness. 6.031 is now the major producer of majestic music in my life (as well as of some other types of happiness). All The Small Things and Animal are both songs my friends played at some point that just hooked themselves into my brain. High School Never Ends was my workout partner’s song rec during my PE class! And of course, as always, Good Things Fall Apart is another Putz earworm. A lot of these were on my packing playlist, and I know I’ll never forget the way I felt, in my dorm room late at night, scared and sad and tired, throwing things into boxes essentially at random and screaming my feelings out to these songs.

Looking back on these four semesters, it’s really striking how different each of them has been, and how viscerally I can feel that difference – and yet how, through it all, I feel that I’ve been basically the same person.

I’m glad I have all of these experiences I can carry with me wherever I go. Thanks for coming with me on this trip down Memory Lane. :)