Recently I stayed in a college dormitory and ate dining hall food during a four-day conference. I cannot recommend this if one is past the age of thirty. However, I was fascinated to see what sort of food they had on offer.
Breakfast was my favorite meal, except that the dining hall had no trays, so one had to individually carry plates, glasses, bowls, and silverware to a table (in some cases, upstairs). By the time I finished ferrying everything around, my fried potatoes were cold.
Only once did the orange juice machine break down, but that was enough for me. Nothing makes me grumpier than having to drink cranberry juice, or worse, no juice at all. As for the coffee, it was not very good.
I need not have worried about finding vegetarian food. There’s always the salad bar, although I hate salad bars. This one had all sorts of interesting things, including cubes of tofu, edamame, and canned artichoke hearts, but I stuck with the greens, which were nice and fresh.
And now for dinner. The problem here was the “potluck” style of the offerings. Unless you choose carefully, you end up with an incoherent mix of flavors. On the good side, they always had at least one vegan entrée, which never was the case when I was a student. The times they are a-changin’!
On my visits to the dining hall, I often met with Japanese high school students, there to learn English. They found the food perplexing. Some loved the breakfast food (especially the eggs and bacon), and some were pining for their morning miso soup, just as I long for orange juice. But they were all boys and very hungry, so they experimented with the bounty that was to hand.
Morgan Mills said:
Looks lovely. Nice to see so many vegetarian options. My university has only started to stock vegetarian sandwiches but at least it’s a step in the right direction! Next stop, vegetarian chicken nuggets! 🙂
I hope those golden nuggets arrive soon 🙂
And I usually find your food posts so appetizing, Linnet! This one just made me grateful I’m well past my college days. LOL. Actually, this reminded me of the good old days… I had a full scholarship that included room and board or however they like to call it in the Honors Hall at my undergraduate university, but after the first several months of dorm living, and making friends with several students who lived off campus, I really wanted to go off-campus after the first year, too. The problem was, my parents were supporting me at the time, and I felt guilty about asking to move off campus because that would mean my parents would be paying rent rather than the scholarship money. The problem was solved for me when each separately came to visit and as part of my “college life tour” I subtly had them both eat at the cafeteria. Both of my parents are foodies and, although divorced for years, they still talked on the phone about matters regarding their children. Not long after those visits, they apparently talked amongst themselves and broached the topic of whether I’d like to move off campus for my sophomore year, where I could cook for myself more easily. *snickers*
LOL, a brilliant strategy! I lived in a dorm for two years and I must say, the food since then has improved. But it’s still very heavy on carbs and fat, and the cooking is mostly un-inspired. On the positive side, there are more international flavors, and more vegan options. That’s encouraging.
No trays? Very strange for a cafeteria style place.
The tray thing was strange. I didn’t see the point of it, especially since people had to serve and bus their own tables.
Strange the no trays thing I’ve never eaten at cantines bar a summer scholarship and some conferences. Wien had lovely croissants and really good coffee. One thin is sure.. you never run out of potatoes ☺ oh and nothing wrong with cranberry juice 😝 orange here tends to be very acidic bar
Croissants in the US are NEVER as good as in Europe!! Even the ones in Dublin were better than here. Why??? As for the OJ, I don’t know what I would do if all I could get was the really acidic stuff. But I’ll even drink that in a pinch 🙂
Sylvie G said:
There is a time for this and this is behind me, I am afraid 🙂
I’ll drink to that 🙂
Having food cooked for me, three times a day, and no washing up – WHEN CAN I MOVE IN?!?!
LOL. No cake, but there’s always ice cream spewed from a machine.
That’ll do 🙂
Breakfast and salad look fine but dinner… hmm… less so. And the broccoli looked somewhat soggy.
That may be my failure to style the food more presentably–it’s like a fast food commercial versus what you actually get! But there is no broccoli in the picture. I think you’re looking at a blob of pesto sauce 🙂
This is so funny. Where I went, the professors ate in the dining hall for lunch, sometimes sitting with students, but they rarely ate dinner there. So it wasn’t surprising that the food at lunchtime was always better—not good, just better. When dinner came along, you’d find pasta with no sauce and whatever leftovers the kitchen could throw at us, with no thought as to whether or not things went together.
On the other hand, this was a private college. When I went to OSU (Oklahoma), I found that the student-run coffee shops and such had some pretty decent food.
My experience in France with their dining halls was amazing. They always had a display of desserts that not only looked gorgeous, but tasted as delicious as they looked. You could order a steak, cooked to your specifications. With the steak came a perfectly ripe grilled tomato. The first time I ordered this, I thought I’d have to pay an arm and a leg, but I soon learned that everything was dirt cheap.
I remember waiting for my panini—a glorified grilled cheese sandwich, but with emphasis on glory—with great impatience. I bugged the ladies working in the kitchen, “Did you forget my sandwich?” Mais non. This thing took time, they assured me. And they were right. I’ve never had anything like it. What we call panini here nothing like that.
And to think, that was just cafeteria food. Unfortunately, I couldn’t afford to go out to eat at nice restaurants, so I stuck with my cafeteria food. Good enough for an American girl!
Lucky you to have that time in France, a land where people truly enjoy their food, and take food seriously. It is one of their great glories. If only we felt the same here in the US, we would all be much healthier and happier.
PS, I am a huge devotee of grilled cheese, whatever name it goes by 🙂
I was really lucky. It was a perfect time in my life to experience that—being somewhat cocky about things and on the verge of graduating.
Grilled cheese is probably one of my favorite foods. Cheese + bread = simple perfection. Simple, but quality really counts.
I’m reading a “Submission” by French author Michel Houellebecq and I can’t help but laugh when he gives detailed accounts of the food he’s eating, what kind of wine he’s drinking, etc. I’m sure he’s doing it on purpose as a commentary on the French (since often times this is happening during political turmoil, when he can hear bombs in the background, and he shouldn’t be thinking about food).
Another anecdote: I was in Big Sur eating at a small restaurant, nothing fancy, just a typical sandwich place. Next to me there was a French family and their young daughter (about 15) who couldn’t read the menu. This tiny girl kept asking about every little thing on the menu, wanting to know everything in exquisite detail. If I’d seen her walking on the street, I would’ve thought she didn’t care about food and didn’t really eat, that’s how tiny she was. But here she was picking apart the menu like a foodie, wanting to know how things were prepared, etc. I wanted to lean over and say, “Sorry to interrupt, but I just wanted to warn you that you are likely to be disappointed by whatever you choose.”
Both stories are great examples of the French emphasis on food. Americans laugh at it, but we could learn a lot from their philosophy of how best to nourish ourselves. (Except for the foie gras part. That I do not approve…)
We’d have to also adopt their conception of portion sizes (imagine American appetites combined with all that butter and cheese and bread.)
If I hadn’t lived there, I would wonder how the French stay slim. But now I know—transportation goes on strike all the time. I ate whatever I wanted when I was there, but I still lost about ten pounds just from exercise. Plus, my host would do her grocery shopping by foot, and this meant going to get bread at once place, going to another place for cheese, etc. Things are changing there, though, unfortunately.
Right–small portions, and not a car culture. Americans could learn a lot from that. I just hope they hold the line and maintain those traditions.