Banana bread french toast is amazing.
I still crave it from time to time in a super-nostalgic-for-the-past sort of way. It never tastes the same when I make it. In fact I’m certain it will never be as good as it was at Food for Thought back in 2013.
I attended the University of Montana from 2011-2015. Back then, tucked next to Jesse Hall off of Arthur Avenue was a dive of a place that used to be called Food for Thought. Food for Thought was a living legend on campus because the food was amazing. (It has since changed hands and names at least twice, and last I checked it was part of the Liquid Planet family.) To be honest, I’m not entirely sure why it closed. Funding? The old nasty carpet? I digress
“The food, sir”
My second year of music undergrad at the University of Montana was a nightmare. I had 18+ contact hours for class (but only 12 or so credits, go figure) that over two semesters featured some combo of music history, low brass, music theory and AP, voice, voice masterclass, comp 2, conducting, music tech, guitar, Russian culture and choir. There may have been other classes but to be honest I dont really remember. All remember is that I was swamped. On of the days I had a 12 hour span of classes to attend and would often spend as long on or near campus trying to get it all done. (Remember, I was that A student with imposture syndrome – so it all had to be PERFECT).
My mental health was in the gutter and my coping skills included alcohol, practicing music, and…banana bread french toast.
Let me fill you in on why the french toast was important. It wasn’t always french toast. Sometimes it was a burrito, or a breakfast scramble. But it was always a group of friends making the trek from the music building to Food for Thought.
A group that was going through it with me: the stress only a music jury can bring, the insanity of our schedules, the abuse of time as it was undercredited, and the bureaucracy of the music program. This group became my foundation of help for getting through classes and later my degree.
Before that year of school I survived my first two on the mentality that I could “go it alone” to get though tough times. I made little friends in engineering and had a toxic relationship that imploded at Montana Tech, and during my first year of music school I was so intimidated and afraid of my colleagues who were strides above me when started that I hardly talked to anyone. Boiled down, I was afraid of making connections. But there’s a beautiful thing that happens in year 2 of the music program: the playing field gets leveled and everything changes among your peers. The kids that were “too smart for classes” leave (the ones that genuinely don’t want to be there to learn) and the kids that want to pursue other interests leave (kudos to them for following their hearts!). So all that’s left is a group of passionate individuals that all want to be there and all want to root for each other (for the most part).
And that’s when I discovered my tribe. For the first time in my life I felt like I belonged to an academic group. I had people to talk to about the music history homework, I had someone to ask about the music tech assignment. I had friends to confide in when it came to my fears in and struggles.
We’d sit in the cold, cramped hallway we dubbed the “composers hallway” and order pizza and bitch about our assignments. We’d go to brunch between AP and music history at food for thought. We’d cheer each other on as we made progress through our works. We’d give pep talks between rehearsals and practice – saying “you can do it!” or “yeah this sucks” whenever it was needed.
I spent so much money on french toast that year that at the time I remember panicking, thinking, “can I really afford to keep grabbing breakfast with everyone 2+ times a week?”
Looking back, all I can think of now is, “would my mental health have survived if I hadn’t?”
The $5 Latte guilt
It may seem counterintuitive for a health advocate to support spending money on fluffy brunch foods. But the reality is it was a way for me to bond with my colleagues – and it was a bond I so desperately needed. I would’ve dropped out when things got harder the next year without that group. And again when my last year rolled around. So yeah, you could say I’m a huge advocate of treating yourself with small things even when money is tight and you’re pinching every penny.
If you can: find your tribe in music. Bond over whatever you can. Spend small change on coffee and brunch and enjoy the hell out each other’s company.
If you are strapped for cash, feeling guilty in a “can I afford this?” debate, think about what you are really buying: time with friends, therapy for your struggles, and help with schoolwork.
$10 for french toast starts to seem like a hell of a deal.
Plus, you can always cheap out and not buy anything or a low-cost option.