Not quite Spago, but…

I went to college at USC, the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, for three years. Otherwise known, affectionately I am sure, as the University of Spoiled Children, Upper Social Class, Ultimate Social Connections, etc. Most of my sorority sisters were either the daughters of well-known movie industry executives, were becoming famous on their own, or ended up dating or marrying a “name.”
Besides the blind date with the son of a very well-known actor who recently married his famous, younger long-time love — and a one-month courtship with a UCLA grad who made a name for himself on a long-running Saturday evening TV show–I didn’t chose the Hollywood route (or it didn’t chose me? Lol), and I returned to Texas, glad to have been back to “reality” and being able to walk into a restaurant or club without having to live on ramen or air-popped popcorn the rest of the week.
You see, my sorority sisters and friends had very expensive tastes, and thought nothing of plopping down $15 for a margarita or $40 for an appetizer. And this was COLLEGE! Not wanting to be left out, I managed to keep up an indulgent lifestyle, sacrificing car maintenance, meals, books and some basic necessities just so I too could hang out at the Roxbury or Bar One on Saturday night, feet away from Prince, Madonna, Julia Roberts or Richard Grieco (man, that guy was EVERYWHERE … except in blockbuster films. Sorry). A night out on the weekends might include dinner at Spago (think $100 per person easily), then two night clubs (cover charge alone was $20), and then an after-hours early breakfast at Canter’s Deli on Fairfax, sitting in a booth next to Drew Barrymore or River Phoenix.
I managed to get decent grades in college, despite my penchant for Hollywood hob-nobbing and being seen at the “newest” and “best” restaurants and clubs, and although I’d not want to live in L.A. again (been there, done that), I did bring back to Texas with me some great memories of some great entertainment, dining and culture.
Some people say they’ll never again eat ramen noodles, air popped popcorn, Taco Bell burritos, Domino’s pizza or takeout Chinese ever again, having existed on items such as those in college. I must say I never had to LIVE on those items (we had discretionary accounts at USC, where parents would put a certain amount of money on account for the students to spend at the campus cafeterias per semester), and so I typically would get sushi, Chinese chicken salad or bagels and frozen yogurt for my meals. However, toward the end of the semester, when the discretionary accounts started to dwindle, there was a lot more evidence of empty cans of pork and beans, Domino’s, ramen noodles and Taco Bell in the dorm/sorority/fraternity dumpsters.
Some things I really miss about L.A. are: ChinChin’s Chinese Chicken Salads, California Pizza Kitchen…everything, Heidi’s Frozen Yogurt, Chinois on Main, Chano’s burritos on Figueroa, chopped salad at The Ivy on Robertson, and salade nicoise at Gladstone’s in Malibu. I can’t get anything similar here in El Paso, and even 20 years later, I still crave some things I ate in college. Especially the designer pizzas that were in their heyday during my tenure at USC.
Last night I felt nostalgic…if not a bit desperate to use up the last of the Orowheat sandwich thins I had left, and the last of our cheese, produce and sausage before grocery day. So I made Christian and myself some “designer pizzas.” One was simply topped with mozzarella and garlic, one with garlic, sausage, ketchup, Srirachi sauce and cheese; and one with garlic, spinach, jalapeno and green onion.
Not QUITE the Asian chicken or truffle and porcini mushroom Spago variety, but they went off very well with both of us, and it was fun to use up our leftovers in different combinations. Definitely healthier too. But the most fun part was knowing I didn’t break the bank making them, and we don’t have to live on ramen the rest of the week 😉

What foods did you “live on” in college? Do you eat them now?


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