It’s fair to say that dining halls get a solid amount of flak during the school year. The chicken is sometimes rubbery, the silverware often still has bits of food on it, and about 70% of the school population is convinced there are laxatives in the meals.
But despite all the constant complaints and persistent protests, there are some bonuses to eating in the glorified cafeterias every day. The summer is three long months, and it may take a while for you to realize just what exactly you’re missing. So…I’ll be the one to go ahead and say it: I miss the dining hall.
1. You always have warm food prepared for you
It’s a rare day that I don’t accidentally burn something in the microwave or royally screw up a recipe. I’m no 5-star chef. I’m probably not even a 1-star chef, and I haven’t quite hit the learning curve in terms of cooking. Actually I can’t even really find the learning curve. Being able to just casually swipe yourself into a building and have access to several different types of hot food is like a godsend when the best you can make yourself is a soggy bowl of cereal.
2. They provide the caloric content of everything
While there’s something sort of liberating about eating carefree from your cabinet at home, cramming handful after handful of chips into your mouth, the novelty of it wears off pretty quick. For those of us who are watching our waistlines (or just trying to eat healthy) it’s important to know just how many calories you’re eating. At dining halls, the food per plate is already portioned for you and the caloric content is right on the menu. Things get a bit trickier when you need to portion out your food by yourself at home and the rest of the box is sitting tantalizingly in your pantry all day, begging you to take another serving size.
3. You always have healthy options
The glory of a dining hall is having a constant salad bar with pre-cut vegetables and toppings at your disposal every day. There’s no excuse for skipping out on the salad when all you need to do is throw the ingredients in a bowl. There are always low-calorie, vegetarian, and vegan meals offered as well. Instead, you might be floundering at home, panicked and looking at all the healthy recipes on Pinterest that require 20 different ingredients and lots of prep. If you’re anything like me, that debacle ends with exiting the browser and downing a convenient bag of chips.
4. It’s like eating for free
Okay, technically the dining hall isn’t free. It’s a set payment you make at the beginning of the year. But if you compare swiping your student ID to swiping your debit card in the pursuit of food, it sure as hell feels a lot freer. Instead of meeting a friend at a restaurant to catch up and talk about the latest Bachelor episode, you can meet at the dining hall and laugh about how free it feels to eat there (and maybe cry later about your tuition bill).
5. You can eat on your own time
There’s nothing worse than trying to live your life and getting the “Are u going to be home for dinner?” text from Mom. She’s a lovely woman who dutifully cooked for you your entire life, which is much appreciated. Sometimes I’m just not hungry yet, though, or I’m doing something. The great thing about dining halls is that their food will be there you when you want it, fresh and warm. Unless you’re trying to eat at 4 am or something, which probably isn’t really good for you anyway.
6. Nobody can limit you
For those of you who aren’t watching your waistlines, the dining hall is the most wonderful all-you-can-eat buffet. Nobody can tell you how many bowls of cereal is too many and if you want to get that second helping of mac n’ cheese, go for it. You don’t have to save any extra for family members. And if you’re pretty sneaky, you can get away with stuffing an extra muffin or two in your backpack for later when nobody is looking.
7. You get to eat with your friends
Eating has always been a social experience. While lately Netflix has become the new substitute for friendship, I think there’s a lot to be said for eating with friends instead of eating while watching Friends. Having the ability to just walk out of your dorm and meet a friend for lunch is excellent, because you get to hang out and commiserate about how awful you (wrongly) think dining hall food is. People-watching in the dining hall becomes 100% more fascinating because you’ll know a lot of the people in there, and you can talk about them with your pals.
So, I know. Some days the overcooked green beans almost push you over the edge, and you never want to accidentally run into the hot boy from lecture while you’re carrying three slices of pizza again. But the convenience of the dining hall totally rocks, and I think it’s important to give them a little love.