Dining hall despair
Jonah Tran | Monday, February 27, 2023
The dining hall food is terrible. There, I had to rip the Band-Aid off. I will not sugarcoat the quality of the dining hall food. On the whole, it is simply bad. Before I begin listing off my grievances, I need to establish a few things. My opinions are based off my experience predominately at North Dining Hall. Though the few times that I have eaten at South, I can say in good conscience that the quality of the food, not the ambience, are comparable. Secondly, I am not attacking NDH Pablo, a local hero and fellow Stanford Griffin, but I do willingly accept all criticism from all NDH Pablo apologetics. Lastly, I am by no means a picky eater. In fact, I take great pleasure in eating food, which is why such a topic like dining hall food hits so close to home.
The chicken breast. Picture this. You see a heaping mound of chicken bits submerged under a sea of watery, murky chicken sweat. You fish out a few pieces and plonk them down onto the plate. Upon taking a bite, your tastebuds are confused by the semblance of poultry, present in its most unseasoned form, and your jaw is subjected to a high intensity workout to chew and swallow the “food.”
The tilapia. Dry, chewy, and unremarkably fishy, the tilapia will induce gagging and will ruin any future vacation or recreation at a body of water. But seriously, you have got some issues if you trust fish at a dining hall in South Bend, Indiana.
Beef short rib. In theory, this dish ought to be fantastic, a hearty meal reminiscent of home cooking. However, it fails miserably. The beef short rib is paradoxically drenched in beef sweat but it retains no moisture, flavor, or tenderness, similar to the case with the chicken breast.
Mandarin orange cauliflower. I have seen, first-hand, the physical disappointment of people who thought that the Asian line had orange chicken, a Chinese American crowd pleaser, but instead was cauliflower. I include myself in this association. It looks like chicken but tastes like obsessive breading and mush drenched in a sugary sauce.
Meatloaf. Meatloaf is one of those foods that depends on your experience with it. You love it because grandma was killing it in the kitchen with the family recipe. Or you hate it because grandma was killing you with the family recipe. I vividly remember one time my slices of meatloaf had a gradient of doneness. At the bottom third of the slice, was well-done, a thick gray band throughout. But the top two thirds of the slice was medium rare. It does not take a Gordon Ramsay to deduce that uncooked ground beef is a no go.
Weggs. These speak for themselves. Absolutely disgusting.
My dislike for the dining hall food is not just based on the low levels of appearance, taste, texture and smell but also on nutrition. To eat healthily, you must scavenge for bits of dry chicken, rabbit food and the small quantity of unrotten fruit. To eat unhealthily, you have freedom of choice, and the offerings are endless. Pick up a chocolate chip cookie. Grab a side of fries. Enjoy a southwest salad, a mound of fried chicken doused in ranch. Treat yourself to a boom-boom chicken salad. Your arteries will thank you in advance. My point is that the unhealthy food — yes that means your favorite “salad” is not healthy — is more mainstream and comes at the expense of your body. Why should there be a wider variety of desserts than fruit? Why are the lines for salads on Tuesday and Thursday so long? Why do so many people queue for the stir-fry, which in my calculations is processed, fried chicken poppers swimming in teriyaki sauce.
I fear that the dining halls have somewhat of a monopoly in the food market at Notre Dame. Yes, there are flex-point restaurants, but you are severely limited by option and the number of flex points themselves. There is no incentive to improve the quality of food since there is minimal competition, if you can even call it competition, and no one calls out the issues. It seems like we are so entranced in a lull of eating terrible food that we have lost our standards. Only once we eat food outside the bounds of Notre Dame do we restore our standards, only to lose them again upon returning to school. Investing in your body by nourishing it with delicious and nutritious food is a nonnegotiable for a good life. One cannot have a healthy mind without having a body. To think that Notre Dame invests so much in developing our minds but leaves so little to develop our bodies is troubling. It appears hypocritical. As for exercising, delving into my dislike for the Smith Center at Duncan and the inequalities in male and female residence hall gyms is a can of worms that I wish not to open in this article.
I once remarked that it is impossible for me to gain the notorious freshmen 15 since the food is so bad. Another time, I remarked that the dining hall food is made in such a way that I never will eat again, because the food will nourish me for an eternity! Obviously.
Jonah Tran is a first-year at Notre Dame double majoring in Finance and Economics and minoring in Classics. Although fully embracing the notorious title of a “Menbroza,” he prides himself on being an Educated Young Southern Gentleman. You can contact Jonah by email at [email protected]
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.