Starving, Blessing and Post-it Noting: Extreme Eating in Cambridge

Three Cantabs with very different diets: sporting, religious and medical. ANNA SHEINMAN hears about gourmet cereal, getting grumpy and fatal anaphylactic shock.

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Rich Simpson is a first year mature student at St Edmunds studying Education with Biological Sciences, and is a boxer. He has to drop 5kg in time for Varsity.

What do you eat in a typical day?: After my morning run, I have a homemade smoothie: blueberries, strawberries, two bananas and skimmed milk. I also have a handful of sultanas and a couple of Weetabix.

I’ve already lost 2kg, and have 3kg to go. I am already very lean, so it’s not going to be easy.

For lunch I’ll have fresh soup, a whole-wheat bagel and a glass of fresh orange juice. This is never enough, and I always feel hungry during the daytime. Because I so resent dieting,  I add serious amounts of biscuits, cakes, and general crap to my diet when I’m not boxing.

In the late afternoon, an hour or so before training, I have a piece of wholemeal toast or a small bowl of muesli and yoghurt, and I always drink at least a pint of water.


“I try to treat myself once a week, ideally at the steakhouse or Patisserie Valerie, but it usually ends up being burger and chips  at the Van of Life after a Bear swap.”


Eating so little makes me really grumpy. I regularly hear guys in the gym who say they’re 80kg, and suggest they’ll be 67kg in time for Varsity. The more experienced amongst us know how hard it is to lose 5kg, let along 15kg. It’s always fun to monitor their progress and see who makes it.

After training I have a recovery drink and then one variation of my standard meal of meat and vegetables with some kind of sauce. At night I can keep eating until I’m full. I also take vitamin supplements and iron tablets.

This is what virtue feels like – Rich’s Sainsbury’s Shop.

I try to treat myself once a week, ideally at the steakhouse or Patisserie Valerie, but to be honest, it usually ends up being burger and chips  at the Van of Life after a Bear swap. I always regret it the next day, but have yet to learn from my mistakes.

And how much does it cost?: Although my diet is very restricted, it is actually pretty pricey to eat like this; fresh fruit and quality meat are quite expensive and I get through a lot of it. I guess I spend £80 per week on food and supplements.


  An anonymous 2nd Year Natsci at Queens and abides by Jewish food laws, a practice known as ‘keeping kosher’.

What do you eat in a typical day?: After morning prayers at the synagogue, those that don’t have a 9am lecture stick around for breakfast: the kitchen always has cereal and milk, and bagels.

All Kellogg’s cereals are kosher, but I prefer Dorset cereals (certified kosher dontcha know). We can keep milk in the fridge at synagogue, but we use disposable crockery and cutlery for it because the kitchen there is a meat kitchen, and you can’t mix meat and milk.


“You just can’t get decent kosher cheese in Cambridge”


For lunch I might have bagels and cheese. If I go home during term I will raid my parents’ fridge, especially for brie. You just can’t get decent kosher cheese in Cambridge.

I don’t go home that often, but there are always people going up and down to London who will pick you up kosher food if you ask. There’s no rota, it’s just casual.

Kosher Cornflakes, Certified Cereal and Chicken and Chips.

Dinner might be left over chicken from Shabbat and chips at Food For Thought (a Jewish learning group) at synagogue. If I’m in college I live in a little Jew Crew of three rooms on the bottom floor of Friar’s Court that surround a kosher kitchen, and I can prepare milk meals (i.e.  no meat) there.

Only certain animals are kosher, and they must be killed and blessed in a certain way. I only get meat when I eat in synagogue, or at formal, so that’s about three times a week.

And how much does it cost?: I don’t find keeping kosher expensive, and I shop in Sainsbury’s like everyone else. If anything it’s cheap because there’s nowhere kosher to eat out in Cambridge, but I’m OK to go out for coffee or a drink. Queens’ are great in that kosher food at formal costs no extra, but I don’t go often.


Clare Cotterill is a First Year English Student at Murray Edwards. She has multiple food allergies.

What do you eat in a typical day?: I have complex food allergies to eggs, milk and nuts, which could lead to potentially fatal anaphylactic shock if I eat any of them. Breakfast is usually cereal with soya milk, orange juice and a banana. Sometimes I have toast and jam (with soya margarine of course).


“I leave little post-it notes on the oven to warn that my food is inside.”


Lunch might be a soup of carrots, onions and vegetable stock. If I have sandwiches they’re generally ham or chicken, and lettuce or cucumber or tomatoes. I can rarely have pre-packaged meals, and I have a fridge in my room to keep my food separate.

I was pretty apprehensive about coming to Cambridge because communal eating plays such a big role in college life. Happily my lovely corridor are very understanding about keeping the kitchen relatively clean, and I leave little post-it notes on the oven to warn that my food is inside and is not to be touched!

Don’t touch!

For dinner I often have roast veg and rice,  or a baked potato and salad. I like to think I have a very healthy diet as it’s mostly fresh fruit, vegetables and meat cooked from scratch. Eating in hall is difficult due to the risk of cross-contamination in the kitchens.

Fortunately, my college allows me to attend Formal Hall (something I was adamant I wasn’t going to miss out on!) and take my own food. I bring three courses, and hide a cool-bag with my food in under my chair – a bemused waiter at the first formal I attended asked where I kept producing food from!

And how much does it cost?: Cooking from fresh ingredients is time consuming but cheap, I spend about £30 a week in Sainsbury’s.