Friday, August 22, 2014

Frat Boy: Saga Dining Hall - Part 2

When we walked into the east side, the workers always warmly greeted us. They would swipe our student IDs which also kept our meal plan accounts. We would walk through a doorway and enter the line of food displayed exactly how you would expect in a cafeteria. First there were the plates. You always grabbed at least two plates, sometimes three. There’s nothing worse than being halfway down the line and needing to ask someone to hand you another plate. The first thing on the line was always the main dish, which sometimes was awesome (chicken parmesan, chicken nuggets) often mediocre (hamburgers, grilled chicken breast) and at times disgusting (unidentifiable mystery meat mixed in with some grey-ish yellow sauce).

Inevitably some worker would be checking the temperatures of the food. I guess it’s great that the food was safe, but that doesn’t really help the fact that it sometimes tasted like paste. Then there would someone who would walk around and carefully drop pimetos on the vegetable. Chrissie always ranted about this, “maybe they could focus on making the food better as opposed to dressing up a turd.”

In addition to the main course there were standbys that they always prepped because we inevitably would skip the main course the vast majority of the time. These included: grilled cheese sandwiches, pasta with marinara sauce, cheese quesadillas, pizzas, French fries and the salad bar.

Drinks were watered down sodas and Minute-Maid juice selections. There was a soft-serve machine, pretty fresh coffee and usually a decent selection of cookies and brownies.

Most of the time I loaded one plate with a cheeses quesadillas, fries and hardboiled egg from the salad bar and the other plate with a grilled cheeses sandwich and marinara sauce. I’d grab a couple cookies and grab a glass of cranberry juice. I’d place the egg and fries in the quesadilla and roll it up and dip my grilled cheese in the marinara sauce.

I literally ate this for a meal, hundreds of times. Yes, it was kind of gross, but it was how I figured out how to make this eating situation work for me. My friends all had their own ways to cope with the mediocrity of the food. Some people used a lot of hot sauce, others focused on the salad bar and used tons of dressing while other simply drank a lot of coffee.

Sharing food is one of the most important ways that human beings bond with each other. What I learned at the Plex is that the quality of the food doesn’t necessarily negatively affect the fellowship of a meal.

We laughed about trying to eat some of the worst meats, being disgusted at overcooked hard-boiled eggs, wilted lettuce and rock hard cookies. We celebrated steak night, gorged on chicken nuggets and made mad dashes for the cookie tray whenever a fresh batch came out of the oven. It wasn’t about what we ate, it was the fact that we ate together as family that made the Plex so special.

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