The Experience, Dining
May 14, 2014
The heavier my workload, the earlier I wake up. In the midst of finals, I wake up around 6:30 a.m. Others are up early in the dorm, too, some exersizing to work out videos, others already studying or meeting with classmates. I find myself often studying in the same, cozy corner of Knowlton, at the end of the corridor near Knowlton Dining Hall. Because the dining hall only opens for lunch, I can count on the hallway to be quiet.
Last time I studied there, a wonderful member of the kitchen staff noticed me, still in my PJs, sprawled out on the ground with my books. When she approached me, I expected her to ask me to move since I might be obstructing the hallway. To my pleasant surprise, however, she offered me tea and coffee. She even opened the dining hall to me and invited me to eat some breakfast. When I entered the dining hall, a wave of calmness rushed over me. I enjoyed the peace and quiet of the normally bustling room. I sat at the Russian language table even though I speak French just because I could. After eating, I slowly sipped my coffee while reading “The Turn of the Screw” until the time came to head, with renewed calmness, to class. It was a gentle, caring staff member from the dining hall who made all the difference that day.
May 5, 2014
Napkin Notes at Conn are a unique way for students to let know how they're feeling about the food. Almost every note gets a response from the staff. While Dining Services can't always accommodate everything, like my friend's request to have our famous chocolate chip cookies at every meal, but the staff is usually able to find a way to make sure the majority of the requests are met.
April 10, 2014
I try very hard not to take night classes.
Not that there aren’t good classes being held at night, but as a track athlete whose practice regularly goes to 6 or 6:30, the added stress of having to get to class afterward is one I try to avoid for my mental health. However, when I joined the Goodwin-Niering Center for the Environment, I was signed up for a seminar that takes place 7-8:30 pm.
Now, you might wonder how I can leave practice, change, eat, get my books and get to class in under a half hour, but luckily, the College has a nifty system for athletes whose practices end after dining hall hours, or for those athletes who also have night classes. We call it the “Cro Pass.”
With the Cro Pass, you get certain items from Oasis, our snack shop, for free. (Cro Passes are only redeemable on the day you were given it, and has to be signed your coach.) Because of my night course schedule isn’t typical for athletes, it’s pretty infrequent that others from my team are eating in Oasis. I try not to eat alone, and I certainly don’t want to be seen eating a whole pizza, solo, on a Tuesday night. So, I decided to use my Cro Pass as a way to befriend my classmates in the Goodwin-Niering Center.
One of my classmates, Maia, is also involved in tons of activities, including dance, so she occasionally hasn’t had the chance to grab dinner before class. She has become my regular Cro date for post-Goodwin Niering seminars dinners, and through this, also a very close friend.
Just this week, she texted me saying “Are you living that Cro Pass life today??” After all, aren't all good friendships are based on food?
March 25, 2014
In college, cooking is all too often equated with ramen noodles. Fast food and microwaved leftovers aren't exactly gourmet food groups, either. I want to learn how to cook, but I don’t want to do it alone. My solution? Apply to live in an apartment-style residence for junior year, with a kitchen for gourmet experimentation.
Last week, I did just that. My friend Alex and I applied to live together in one of the apartment-style options available to upperclassmen. These are campus housing options, but have kitchens and a little more independence. I can’t explain how excited I am to learn to cook my own meals in preparation for life after College. Alex and I are both peer educators on campus and living together will give us a way to plan and help run the organization.
Most importantly, I will certainly be buying an apron.
March 13, 2014
The perfect end to midterms week came last Thursday at Taste of Harris. Independent food vendors visit campus once every Spring and serve everything from sausage ravioli to margarita pizza. At the end of the meal, students vote on their favorite items and the dining hall staff try to include the winners on the regular menu. Black bean burgers are now available in Harris after they made an appearance at last year's Taste of Harris.
February 25, 2014
Have a favorite place in your town where you just love to eat? Conn is like a small town and we’ve all got our favorite places to socialize and get meals. For me, it’s Smith Dining Hall.
I can go on and on about why Smith is my favorite place for breakfast and lunch. I mean, if you can find one bad thing about Smith, let me know.
Let me take you on a Smith adventure: It all starts with cheese and veggies! Spinach, lettuce, beans, corn salads, tomato salad... basically everything and anything you need for a salad. (Oh, did I forget to mention guacamole? Yeah, that just happened.)
Next are the famous flavored sauces and mayos that you and your friends will come here for. Chipotle-mayo is definitely my favorite, but others are partial to the sundried tomato and pesto spreads.
Toward the end of the line are the meats, should you choose to accept them. (Who doesn’t like a zesty chicken?) I love a zesty chicken, and Smith knows what I love, so they have a zesty chicken.
What makes Smith really special, however, is that I haven’t run into a single rude person in all my afternoons here. Admittedly, Smith is one of the smallest and most popular dining halls, yet there’s never a “Move!” Instead, I always hear “Excuse me”. Never a “I was using that,” always an “Oh sorry, after you.” Smith allows us to create all types of wondrous sandwiches and salads. In the dining hall’s simplicity, it creates a space of unity. That’s what I love about Smith.
February 11, 2014
One of my best friends, Caroline, visited me at Conn over the weekend. Although she and I love quiet chats over mocha at our favorite coffee shops, we also love adventures like kayaking to islands off Maine’s coast and square dancing in Charlestown.
Therefore, it came as no surprise that we spent our time together at Conn doing something adventurous. What did we do? We cooked.
After Caroline arrived in New London on the Amtrak, we headed to Fiddleheads, a natural foods co-op downtown. We looked up vegetarian recipes on our phones and came across an easy one for black bean and sweet potato enchiladas.
Fiddleheads had the ingredients available, even in small portions. That meant that instead of buying an entire shaker of chili powder and bottle of canola oil (which my meal-plan-self would not finish), we could take just as much as the recipe called for.
Around dinnertime, Caroline and I set out to cook our enchiladas in Lazarus Dorm’s kitchen. Although most students at Conn live in the dorms and eat all their meals in dining halls, some apartments are available. Other buildings, like Lazarus, have dorm rooms but shared kitchens that all students, like myself, can use.
We walked straight into a cooking fiesta with the others who were there. As we grated potatoes and chopped onions, a German student made soup; a student from Texas cooked eggs, bacon and biscuits; and two friends fried rice.
Though our dinner took the longest to prepare, it was worth it. The enchiladas and the weekend turned out great.
February 10, 2014
Harris Refectory is a place where students go not only to eat, but also to sit down and socialize, as well. We jokingly call Harris a "social trap," because most students, at some point, find themselves spending an average of one to two hours, sometimes more sitting and socializing, well after having finished their meal.
February 7, 2014
When I arrived at Conn, I ate most of my meals in the dining halls nearest to my dorm. As I expanded my horizons, at the urging of a friend, I ventured south to Freeman Dining Hall (in Freeman House.) It was there where I first discovered the joy of at the New York Times crossword puzzles.
Of course, I knew what the crossword was, but had never actually tried it before. What started as a simple lunch became a meeting of the minds. An architectural studies major/art minor with French language skills teamed up with this environmental studies major/English minor who knows Spanish. Together we managed our way through the Tuesday puzzle and -- on a good week -- even the Thursday crossword.
Since my friend graduated, I have continued doing the crossword almost every weekday. My group of crosswordians has grown to include two psychology majors and an East Asian studies major, all of us with varying language abilities. One time, our crossword attempts extended to an evening meal with my track team, and all of us worked together to complete a Wednesday crossword (which, for those who haven’t yet become familiar with the New York Times crossword, is kind of difficult.)
Doing the crossword is one of the new routines that I’ve developed at Conn. It is easy to pick up, because Conn students have access to free copies of the New York Times every school day. The daily challenge has also helped me keep up with current events beyond our small campus, and I’ve met some great new competitors in the process, too.
January 21, 2014
Often on Fridays, my friend Joanna will invite me to a Shabbat dinner, hosted by Hillel, the Jewish organization on campus.
Although I am not Jewish, these dinners have become one of my favorite weekly traditions. A group of about 15 people (often including “Coasties,” our affectionate name for students from the Coast Guard Academy,) gather around tables pushed together in the Jane Addams dining hall.
One of Hillel’s leaders guides us in song and, once we’ve finished singing, we pass around challah and share snippets of our week with one another.
I am grateful to Hillel for providing me a calming space to reflect on my week, catch up with friends, and meet new ones. With the new Hillel House opening this month, I’m excited to be part of more Jewish cultural events.
December 2, 2013
Ever notice that you're never really "normal" when hanging out with friends? Your inside jokes and secret ways of communicating set you apart. People might give you confused looks if you all randomly burst into laughter when nothing really happened. I'd like to call this “comfortable strangeness.” Once you reach this with a group of people, you'll find that it is difficult to be anything but a little weird.
I always eat late breakfast/early lunch in Smith with two classmates — very close friends — before my 11:50 class. We share a comfortable strangeness over sandwiches and bagels. We recently sat with a friend we don't often see and shared the same realization; we were struggling to be normal. It actually made lunch even more hilariously awkward. Our friend departed before we did and we laughed about how we never realized how strange we were. It wasn't until we were around other people that we felt the need to tone down our overly-excited interactions. It's a nice connection to have with friends; this comfortable strangeness.