An ode to college dining

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Ah, college food. There you are, waiting for us at eight in the morning, pain au chocolat and coffee at the ready. Just kidding – for the next two hours, this food will remain untouched because, come on, who really attends college breakfast? Attending a 10am lecture is painful enough, let alone waking up for breakfast.

It is now 12pm and your stomach is grumbling. Those lectures in the morning truly took their toll on you (unless you slapped your alarm off and slept off your Klute hangover). Around you, your fellow college students, who are equally as tired and hangry grab those iconic blue trays and queue under the harsh lighting of the dining hall. You eye up the bread rolls for the soup, but alas, there’s only those stale brown wholemeal rolls left, the ones which radiate sadness and melancholy. Not to fret, the salad bar is open, free for you to investigate. Fancy a spoonful of watery sweetcorn? A few wafer thin slices of cucumber, so translucent you can hold them up to your eye and see the equally delicious food waiting for you to peer at?

If the salad bar is not your preferred choice, you can always rely on the hot food station to fill up your grumbling stomach. First, we have the meat pasta and the vegetarian pasta, often both so alike, you cannot tell which is which. If the college is feeling particularly adventurous, sometimes noodles even make an appearance. A rare appearance, but an appearance nonetheless. Carbohydrates being the main theme of college dining, there is always the classic jacket potato standing in all of its starchy glory, baked beans and cheese as its humble but deserving sidekick. 

The potato. Jacket potato; home fries; french frips; classic thick cut chips; potato smilies; hash browns.

If you are a lover of the potato, then look no further, for the college dining hall is the land of such variety.

For those who are lucky and are deemed worthy by the dining hall, the sweet potato fries may also make a cameo onto one’s plate.  One tactic for when the fish pie or the vegetarian burgers are not looking too appealing is to simply fill up one’s plate with all the different variations of potato that is on offer that day. As you can tell, nothing says nutritious, healthy and adventurous like college food. 

It is on the nights of formal dinners, where one turns to their friend and remarks ‘Why don’t they serve this type of food normally?’. A true favourite of mine has to be the red velvet cheesecake, served on a Friday night formal, with this sometimes being the dessert the next day. Am I complaining that I get to eat this delight twice in one week? Certainly not. Only a fool would turn down such a dessert.

However, turning down college food can sometimes be a no brainer. Another life hack: use your college campus card to get up to £3 worth of food at the Calman Cafe in the science site. This can also go towards a technically free Starbucks, which is always a winner.

Whether you abhor or adore college food, one true fact will always remain: you can never beat Brunch.

Hash browns, sausages, eggs, the real deal is being served here. Flat White could never compete with the ambience on a Saturday morning, makeup still smeared around people’s faces, some joining the dining hall still in clothes from last night – or even their pyjamas. A true collection of faces and stories to be told from the night before. 

Say what you will, but I know that college dining helped me bond with my fellow college friends in first year – even if it was over the dubious flavours of food we had to eat. While the meal may not have actually been great, the chance to meet new people in the college dining hall in freshers truly was an experience. I may have taken the brunch for granted, but certainly not the conversations I got to be a part of.

Image: Pixabay

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