Written by Ben ParafinaI arrived on a quiet afternoon, campus had emptied out now that fall break had hit full swing. Classes had been empty and my usual routine of abstaining from breakfast left me with a distinct hunger. They say that hunger is the ultimate spice. But they also say that all brown things taste the same.I would not lie to you. I am a doctor.As we entered we were presented with a down-home, cafeteria-style setting that indeed made me feel right at home. The normally friendly and engaging staff was mysteriously absent, and this particular evening it was self-serve. This took away from the normally exciting and engaging atmosphere, but the fine Sodexho staff needs a break too.I heaped onto my plate rice, then topped it with Caribbean style Ratatouille. Following that I scraped up two chicken thighs to accompany it as well as some peas to join the whole medley. A cup of tortilla soup was next, served into a small soup cup onto an earthy brown carry tray, which provided such a sense of class and feeling.As we sat down to eat in a plush booth seat conversation began. Beverages were self-serve as well so I mixed myself a number picked up from a friend that consists of half cranberry half orange juice.I took a sip, sized up my food and began. The chicken was essentially chickeny. I found it to be tender, if a bit pink. My friend remarked, “I don’t think it’s cooked all the way,” and some base part of me wondered the same.As I finished the first thigh and moved to the second I remember thinking that only time will tell, and I imagined myself clutching a toilet cursing the cafeteria as I relived my meal moment by moment. Thankfully that never occurred, and I’m happy to report that the kitchen is very clean.Instead the tender chicken was fine, if not a bit bland, and the entree was better than it had been in some time.The chicken carried a few distinct flavors, such as salty and meaty, which was pleasant. The Ratatouille, described as Caribbean, consisted of a vegetable medley with pineapple trapped in a mysterious sauce, which was essentially edible.Mixed with rice it even became, nutritious—or perhaps simply no longer needed the usual addition of copious amounts of Sriracha sauce.All in all my meal was pleasant, the food was passable and the atmosphere fine. My soup, which by some turn events became the finale to my meal was probably the best part. I feel biased here, as I find soup to be the most promising part of the cafeteria besides the tortillas, which are orgasmic if you haven’t tried them yet.The tortilla soup was excellent. The medley of chicken broth and overabundance of pepper which inevitably leaks into all the soups in the cafeteria blended magnificently with the soggy crispy tortilla chips.The trace amounts of chicken and vegetable matter left me with something to ruminate over between bites of soggy chip.They might have even snuck a tomato in there. There was a palatable absence in the cafeteria that evening. My friends and I the only students, we spoke with bravado and gusto and stared into our deserts.The thing about deserts in the cafeteria is that it’s always a crapshoot. The display case is almost always a wash, the various Jell-o and puddings carrying the taste and consistency of paste, yet the cookies as well as the cakes sometimes carry gems. Today was not one of those days.The cake I had carried a mealy consistency and the middle filling was vanilla pudding. Due to the extended weekend the soft serve machine was shut down by some stroke of genius, leaving me without recourse. I trudged back to the desert case, and stared into a deep, sugar coated abyss. I picked up a chocolate chip cookie, remembering the old adage – KISS, keep it simple, stupid.The Cafeteria never billed itself as a high-class establishment, and lacks the charm of a greasy spoon but in the role of keeping this writer fed, caffeinated, and not contemplating squirrel kabobs, it does a fine job. Plus, it’s free (for those with meal plans)!
OFFICIAL STUDENT NEWSPAPER OF SOUTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY