Surviving on the UChi Dining Plan

This may sound silly, but I almost never have a desire to eat dining hall food.  I know everyone complains about it, but I actually would sometimes rather not eat than eat in the dining hall.  Case in point: last week I ate in the dining hall three times.

It’s not because I’m prissy.  (I’m not.)  Last week I went to Harold’s twice.  There are a lot of days I would rather make the trip to Harold’s and pay $3 for a meal than go to the dining hall for a free dinner.

I don’t eat in the dining hall often because I rarely find satisfaction in dining hall food.  Some of you have heard me say this before, but dining hall food leaves me feeling physically full and spiritually empty.  My extreme indifference toward dining hall food comes from what I acknowledge to be an unorthodox attitude toward food: I eat because I want to find enjoyment and fulfillment, not because I’m hungry.  I can comfortably go more than a day without eating, and I can also eat a good amount of food in one sitting.

I don’t expect anyone to adopt this viewpoint (it’s admittedly not very healthy), but most people can appreciate a good meal.  Food matters to all of us, it’s just an unusually high priority for me.  That being said, I did not start a blog so I could complain about food over a thousand words a day.  I’m actually a very proactive person.

So, some constructive criticism and guidelines for coping with dining hall offerings (this applies mostly to South Campus Dining):

1.  Get eggs for breakfast.  Real eggs, not those powdered military rations they prepare by the tubful.  And don’t be afraid to ask for less oil and other modifications.  Instead of an omelette, I usually ask for a scramble.  This improves the overall texture of the egg, in my opinion.  As always, this is a matter of personal preference.

2.  Biscuits or toast with honey butter and a dash of cinnamon or salt.  Admittedly, not very nutritious.  But I’m usually provided with a sense of home-style comfort.

3.  Pizza with oregano.  And other seasonings, on the right of the pizza bar.  This is available most of the time in the dining hall.

4.  Grilled cheese.  Assemble a grilled cheese at the sandwich bar with bread and cheese of your liking.  Take it to the grill station and patiently wait 10-20 minutes to get someone’s attention.  Ask them nicely to grill your sandwich for you.  Make sure it is cut diagonally.  This actually makes the sandwich taste better, since there are more bites with a preferable crust/non-crust ratio.  (opinion)

5.  Always toast your pita.  One run through the toaster can resuscitate cold, stale pita for a few minutes, giving you enough time to eat it before it turns back to stone.  Two runs can further improve texture and temperature or potentially kill it again.  Choose wisely.

6.  Mix and match different stations.  Make a chicken sandwich out of the breaded chicken breast at the euro station (usually a decent option in its own right).  Add some cheese from the salad bar to your baked potato.  Put some guac in your salad.

There’s also a really simple sauce I make at home you can try: peanut butter + soy sauce + sugar, microwaved.  Some variations include sriracha (rooster hot sauce) and vinegar.  Mix the three ingredients in an approximately 2:2:1 ratio and pour over tofu, noodles, or blanched vegetables.

There are more variants others have come up with.  Some girls microwave spinach and water to boil it.  Spencer tops off soda water with apple juice (I really like this combination.  It’s been my dining hall beverage of choice for some time now.)  What most of these variants have in common is an emphasis on simple, unfussy meals.  I generally find the more work the dining hall puts into developing something new, the more likely it is to be inedible.

Do you know of any good dining hall mods?  Perhaps we can work together to make a more palatable dining experience.

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