The dining halls are a pretty standard and yet important part of our college experience here at Pomona. Since most people live on campus, most of us eat the vast majority of our meals at the dining halls, either Frank or Frary (or Oldenborg) or at another campus. All issues between the administration and the dining hall workers aside, I think our dining halls are pretty good. Having cooked for myself when I was abroad and during spring break this year, I know it saves me a LOT of time not to have to prepare meals every day. However, sometimes nothing looks particularly appetizing, and after four years I am kind of done with the dining hall food. People kind of like to complain about them, too, but seeing as I’m on basically my last week with the dining halls, I was thinking about the really amazing aspects of them as well.
First, they are a cool aspect of our college community. Sometimes I eat alone, but sometimes I run into people I know and end up having very interesting conversations—the type of meandering conversation that can only seem to happen in a dining hall or dorm room hallway. Whether we know the dining hall workers personally or not, we see them every day and hopefully develop some kind of rapport with them. The dining halls are also part of our space. They become familiar to us and are kind of an extension of our homes, with a lot more people.
Second, as my friend pointed out (and the inspiration for the title of this post) is that we are pretty lucky with the buffet style we have. I mean, it is easy to take too much food if you are not careful though we don’t have trays any more. I remember coming as a freshman and being a bit in awe of the eat-whatever-you-want style available every day, and when some friends visited me from colleges with a different dining system (you buy individual items sort of thing) they were a bit in shock, too.
But what is actually cool about the buffet style is that it can expand your food horizons. You can try all sorts of new things, at no cost to yourself; there is no risk of ordering something that you might not like or paying for a new food that you end up regretting. The dining halls attempt all sorts of different cuisines and present a very different spread than what we might find at home. My friend, for instance, had never really had Mediterranean food before the dining hall and I think I may have gotten her addicted to baklava. I had never tried tempeh at home, but they had it once in Frank and I discovered I quite like it.
So look on the bright side—maybe you will discover something new and exciting next time you feel adventurous at a dining hall.