Photo from SpongebobWikia
By Trevor S.
We all get hungry. No one can help it. Not President Stanley, not the dining halls and surely not CulinArt, whose one redeeming quality seems to be that they’re not Sodexo. You must give credit where credit is due I suppose. But this article isn’t about how bad the food is here on campus. Hundreds of people have done that already. Thousands know that the food is one step up from prison grub (a comparison that would be more pertinent if Sodexo was still serving us, but it serves the point nonetheless). Today I just want to describe the dining experience in all its glory.
Now, let’s say for argument’s sake you have an urge to go to Eastside Dining. Perhaps it’s a hankering for some halal or you’d like to pretend you’re going to actually to enjoy the pizza. Or maybe you’re just a masochist. Whatever your pleasure, its led you to Eastside today. You walk in. But unfortunately for you it’s campus life time. Everyone and their mother is here and there’s barely enough room to breathe, let alone eat. The halal place has a line threatening to surge out the doors and budget Chipotle isn’t too far behind. So now you have a choice; you can get food from the emporium or you can go to the dining hall. For our sakes, let’s say you dine in.
You mosey on down to the dining hall and, surprise, there’s another line. But this line is nowhere near the length of the others, so you believe you’ve made the right choice. Now you wait for five to ten minutes (possibly behind someone who hasn’t showered for days), musing over what you’re going to feast on today. Will it be the burnt chicken breast, or possibly the hockey pucks that pass for burgers? If that’s the case, right after you swipe in you get to graduate from one line to another. This one’s for burgers, chicken and fries; it’s a little different from the one for entry. Now you are tantalizingly close to your sub-par meal, but you probably have to wait for the workers to leisurely place it in front of you. I don’t speak much Spanish, but even I can tell you that they’re not talking about the quality of the burgers. And why should they? No one wants to focus on the crap they’re serving people, but when the soap operas keep them from putting out food it gets annoying. Anyway, back to the line. It’s always amused me how tense everyone is on this line. You can sense the nervous energy around you, as people start to subtly (insidiously, even) snub each other, all in hopes of getting poorly cooked chicken. But fear not. Eventually, your wait will be over and you’ll manage to secure a plate from the savages you’ve been dueling with.
Now, having fought tooth and nail for your meal you can finally sit down and indulge yourself. Perhaps you’ve had a long week. Passing by the dessert section you think, “what the heck, I’ve earned it.” You snatch up a piece of chocolate cake and continue on to your seat. After finding a viable place to sit and satisfy your pallet you begin your meal. Upon the first bite of the burger you can already tell you’ve made a grievous error. Its burnt, tough as leather and completely devoid of taste. It looks like charcoal, and burnt black meat flakes off when you lift it up. The inside is an ugly brown without a hint of pink and it becomes clear this burger was designed to be made quickly, taste be damned. But you spent the time and effort getting the damn thing so by God, you’re going to eat it. So you do, choking down each and every unsatisfying bite. It was terrible, but all living things must eat in order to survive, so, A for the effort. But there’s hope yet. There’s still light at the end of the tunnel and that light comes in the seductive form of your chocolate cake. Like a child who’s finished every last Brussels sprout at the dinner table you are rewarded with sweet, carefully disguised sugar.
You take a bite. It’s strange, so you take another. You wait. You let it set in. You try to find the words to describe this feeling. Then it dawns on you. How didn’t you realize before? It’s a feeling you’re all too familiar with: disappointment. The cake tastes like nothing. Literal nothing. It’s barely even chocolate. It’s just a lie. Yes, the cake is a lie. But how? How could this be? How can you get chocolate cake wrong? But alas, it has been done. There’s no going back (unless you’re just dying for some more fake cake). You finish the upsetting meal and exit the establishment, continuing your way through another aimless day. Unsatisfied.
Now there is some hope. You can’t change the quality of the food you’re eating, but you can change the locale. The next day you return to the scene, this time determined to at least take the food back with you to the comfort of your dorm. You wait on line and resolve to order take out. The cashier swipes your card and keeps it. Keeps. It. Yes, they keep your card on top of the register while you gather your dismal meal into a shoddy plastic tray. It’s rather insulting. Not only are we being sold disappointing food, our I.D. is held hostage while we do it. Not only that but you’re only allowed one takeout order a day, for fear that you may be supplying other students with the below average food. It’s absolutely ridiculous. Then you have to go back to the cashier and collect your I.D. It’s sort of a deal with the devil; for a shitty meal that sounded good to begin with, you only wind up losing your soul. Except the devil is CulinArt and the soul is, well, your soul.
Now I understand this sounds like an awfully privileged opinion. This school supplies me with food, shelter and quality education, so maybe I should just chill. But why is it so hard to produce good food on campus? It can’t be some great mystery, especially not for all the money we pay. I know it isn’t the workers fault. Hell, I’ve worked on campus for four semesters and I know I wasn’t to blame for the food. Is it the contractor? Sodexo was just as bad, if not worse, than CulinArt is. Maybe instead of writing an article about my dissatisfaction, I should be investigating the culprits behind my burnt burger. But what’s the use. I’ve been here four years and since then we’ve had three different food contractors and they’ve all been notably horrible. But maybe it’s me. Maybe I’m whining. Maybe I’m spoiled millennial. Maybe the two dollar burritos the Union use to sell at midnight were actually fire. Maybe the food only got bad recently. Maybe I’m just too privileged to know a good thing when I see it. Maybe I should just sit down, smile and enjoy my sustenance. Oh, excuse me, I mean food.