For those over the age of thirty and with a considerably larger vocabulary than I, the word “nom” is probably a foreign word. A cursory “Google” of the word reveals everything from “national operations manager”, to “National Organisation for Marriage”. But to the average student, “nom” is just the act of consuming your “nosh” – and to those not yet accustomed to my slang-ridden writing, that means eating your food. And the more we study, the more we “nom”. But what do we “nom”?
The late-night snack is admittedly the cornerstone of the ultimate student experience, but the only thing anyone can really agree on is that we have to eat. Preferably, at any point. Working at the college Toastie Bar, it’s evident that everyone has a taste for something different – the sugar addict who asks for banana with chocolate sauce on chocolate-and-marshmallows-and-rainbows-and-butterflies (if it were possible, that is), the person who evidently wanted a pizza but couldn’t be bothered to ring Domino’s and so constructed one with two slices of white toast, or the person who defies logic and mixes sweet toppings with savoury ones.
Or maybe you’re looking for something else. But you can’t be bothered to walk into town. You, my reader, have fallen into the category of people who are regulars at JustEat, and have stocks of snacks comparable to a small supermarket in their room. Maybe your vice is chocolate oranges, biscuits, kebabs, and curries. All accompanied with a healthy dose of chips of course. And all accessible at the click of a button. With the workload this term, many of my friends have fallen into this category. It’s remarkable how well organised we can get at the siren calling of food, a million texts getting sent throughout the college to collect the bulk orders of pizza. At this rate, we really should just make a Facebook group dedicated to ordering takeaway. Maybe set up a side-business ordering food for fellow students or something.
Beyond the college Toastie Bar and the Internet, the best example of a typical late-night snack destination is the humble fish-and-chip-kebab-burger-pizza corner shop. Living in Durham, I guarantee that you can’t walk more than a few hundred metres before bumping into one of these weirdly wonderful, uniquely British establishments. Serving food double time, with servers who can somehow fully understand every single order no matter the accent or degree of inebriation, but who don’t hover, they provide just enough service to be the ultimate late-night dining location. Truth be told, the burgers probably aren’t authentically American, but “Britain-sized”, and the pizza is bread slathered with the toxic combination of tomato sauce, cheese and meat. But everything served with a double dose of heartiness, grease, and a unique British twist, and that’s really all that counts. Take my friend, whose night-outs are never complete without a requisite visit to Paddy’s for chips with gravy. After almost two terms of living with these wonderful folks, I still can’t understand the appeal of nom-ing chips at anytime, anywhere. Somehow, chips just don’t quite hit the spot around 11pm. But hey, he’s happy and somehow, still hasn’t killed his insatiable appetite for chips. Or another friend of mine, who subsists on donner kebabs, which I have never managed to eat after hearing a story about the questionable meat sources used for making kebabs. In any case, my arteries would probably have exploded before I managed to get round to writing this article down.
So if this writer doesn’t quite appreciate the chip and kebab, what does this writer “nom”? Well, toasties are great, but when it comes down to it, you can’t beat a Hong Kong-style French toast or a condensed milk bun. There’s something special about the semi-caramelised condensed milk, lavished on toast that has that perfect crunchy-outside-fluffy-inside condition, contrasted with the salty peanut butter. The pursuit of that something special is probably why at these times, internationals crack open the stashes of “international” food – the instant noodles from Asian supermarkets, weird foods sent from home, or the remnants of a massive food haul over the Christmas holidays. When we whatsapp each other photos of our food stashes, Instagram our late-night cravings, and have mini-food parties during our study breaks. When we live vicariously through the foodies from back home, who post photos of tantalizingly delicious dishes; we comment “delicious!” with a string of emoticons from thousands of miles away. I even have a friend who’s started a food blog during the term – her Instagram is annoyingly delicious. You may ask – Durham the gastronomy capital of the North East? Is there really so much food to blog about? It’s only my second term here; even I can’t answer those questions. But there’s something indicative about the fact that all the photos she’s posted have been from home, and are all foods she’s craving at the moment. At these times, I question if my international friends and I have even left our respective countries – our rooms resemble the typical supermarkets that we find back at home.
Food is so much more than just sustenance; the late-night snack is so much more than a last-dash dose of sugar to help you finish the mammoth essay. It’s comfort food, a little piece of happiness, designed to perk up your night and give you just enough encouragement to finish your work. And I think I’ve worked out why we all go for the fatty foods we’ve grown up with and love. Around those hours, all thoughts of New Year’s resolutions that you’ve kept up with superhuman determination, or #fitspiration from your Instagram, just disappear. If we’re completely honest, all we want is a slice of home.