Dining Hall Revelations

Honestly, I never thought that this day would come, a day where I would frankly talk about how I actually happened to enjoy something that I ate in the…eeep, dorms. However, in these past two days, I happened to stumble upon, literally, on two unique meals that made me pause and realize that hey, perhaps there really is food in college.

Now, first of all, don’t get too excited, this is food prepared, not cooked in a college dorm, food made by grumpy people who were either rejected from (is that even possible) or failed (also not that likely?) culinary school. These are people who will throw you a dirty look if you ask for a quesadilla instead of a burrito because oh good heavens they have to stand there and cook it for like FIVE MORE SECONDS! It really, really sucks and I don’t mean to sound so mean or snobby, but come on, these people can’t cook anything. I swear they even manage to screw up things that they didn’t even cook like the prepackaged deserts, for example, have you ever seen a delicious looking piece of chocolate cake and then been disappointed only to realize that the cake has the texture of stale bread and the icing is just sugar with brownish color. I have suffered through this injustice, and all it did was to cause me to continue to lose hope in the incompetent dining hall “chefs”…until yesterday.

Yesterday was a special night in the dining hall, breakfast for dinner, which in other words is well, a little unappetizing because while I love myself all things breakfasty, after 12pm I have no desire to eat pancakes in the dark of the night. Therefore when I went to eat, it was a challenge because everything was either sweet, fried, or a poor excuse, such as the “make your omelette” bar where the eggs were already cooked into a gigantic lump of a defrosted mess and a variety (and by variety I mean three) of raw vegetables was placed out for people to place on top. I was furious, even upset that my friend dragged me here until I saw came upon…the fruit bar. It literally was a dream come true after months of eating rubbish three times a day, a large spread of fresh, that’s right, no cans, no freezers, and no sugar, just pure and juicy fruit. A smile arose on my face as I filled my plate with strawberries, pineapple, grapes, blueberries, blackberries, and what I thought to be huckleberries? Can you believe that, I tried a new fruit not at my home, but at college, a place where all I expected was a vat of canned peaches. It was a delicious dinner, nontraditional, I suppose, but hey, when you are hungry and good food is hard to come by, you have to go with what you can find and that plate of fruit was an edible gold mind. It’s a pity that they only do it once a week.

The second delicacy I came across, well it’s not really a delicacy, but it was kinda cool, was found this morning during breakfast. Usually, I will eat breakfast in my room, something simple like a bowl of cereal, or a pop tart or something, but 2-3 times a week, when I’m feeling in a more hungry mood, I will venture down to the dining hall for an omelette, made to order, and yes they actually cook the eggs with your fixings in front of you so its, gulp, good. Normally, these omelette are made in little skillets, but today they appeared to be some sort of special surprise because the “eggs to order” were being made on a flat top grill! I mean “HELLO DO YOU NOT KNOW HOW COOL THAT IS????” It’s so communal, all the products being made on the same surface, yet so rustic at the same time. I felt as if I was in a diner, such a classic part of American culture that I feel is so quickly disappearing because so many people, myself included, have either never been or don’t really go anymore. I practically got excited when I heard the sizzle of tomatoes, onions, green peppers, and mushrooms hit the smoking hot grill and then a ladleful of eggs was poured on the surface and it instantly began to crackle and bubble away. I was so tempted to take a picture of the process in action, but I felt that the cook would think I’m a bit of weirdo or something, so I held my anticipation till I received the omelette and took a couple of snaps at the table.

Yes, I know that it looks a little greasy, but this omelette was seriously, freaking awesome! It was oozing with cheddar cheese, so yeah it’s not exactly calorie-friendly, but at the moment, I was just so excited to taste its salty and ever so familiar bite bursting through the surprisingly fluffy eggs alongside tastes of juicy tomatoes, sharp onions, mild peppers, and meaty mushrooms. The whole thing also went so wonderfully with frequent dipping into a little Sriracha sauce to add a spicy and garlicky kick (yes can you believe it…my college actually carries a somewhat gourmet product!).

Alright, that’s it, and that’s probably the only good that I will EVER say about the dorm food because it is still an awful and distasteful mess, but I will forever appreciate these two meals I had. They were special  because they made me feel happy to eat again, something that I always crave and desire, so that my passions as a foodie can still continue to be realized at UIUC.

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