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If to "cup" a body part is to gently cradle it from beneath with the palm of one hand, it would seem that I now need to "saucepan" or "popcorn bowl" my stomach to give it full support. My lower back, following suit, insists on shaping the bottom of t-shirts in its image, the way one would expect chests and shoulders to.
"How can you be getting fat?" asked Andrew Nico, senior literature, attempting to discredit my whines. "The food here sucks."
The traditional complaint of any eater subjected to a food service, as is the case in colleges, high schools, and summer camps, is that the meals are inedible and consumed solely for survival. I must take this opportunity to confess that I eat Chartwells food for pleasure.
Despite living in an on-campus apartment with a full kitchen (including two George Foreman grills), most of my on-campus nutrients come from the Dining Hall. In the past year, in conjunction with a rise in tuition, the food variation and quality has improved drastically.
The culinary calendar of Dining Hall dinners is now sprinkled with "special" nights, which range from intricately-flavored Cajun wraps with eccentric legumes prepared in the center of the hall (breaking conventions and fasts) to the transformation of the Dining Hall into a 50's diner, "Hot Dogs and Hot Rods," accompanied by do-wop and worth-five-dollar milkshakes, almost making the eatery's pleather seats shimmer as the booths did on Happy Days. Wednesdays at the Dining Hall are the unofficial best of the week, offering penne (al dente) in an unwatery, rosy cream sauce with eyelash-long vegetables, a Mexican casserole excited by grainy corn meal, and plump couscous with tart dried fruit. The friendly staff and muted MTV U televisions put forth a comfortable atmosphere daily.
Terra Ve, which sets Purchase apart from many colleges by serving as a haven for vegetarians, has been evolving beautifully. Already in the hearts of students for its enormous Odwalla juice selection, Terra Bacon, and, of course, quesadillas, Terra Ve introduced Cast Iron Pies to its cornucopia of made-as-you-order treats. With over forty filling possibilities in sweet and savory and a large banner that boasts, "hotter than average," the single-serving hockey pucks of happiness have quickly become a staple of the SUNY Purchase diet.
"Yeah, and sometimes the pizza’s good," adds Peri Lee Pipkin, senior visual arts and president of the Cheese Club.
I am also happy to report that this year, unlike in my freshman 2004, the freshly-prepared pesto pasta of Terra Ve no longer reacts in my body as a laxative.
This year has also seen an update of the packaged sushi available on the chilled shelves of Terra Ve and the Hub. Although pricey when compared to the average restaurant’s roll of six pieces (about $7 at Terra Ve and the Hub), Purchase consumers break even when considering the gas and time costs of transportation. Rolls now include "imitation crab," with a feathery texture and misleading red-and-white tones, at Terra Ve and (real) eel and cooked shrimp at the Hub. Inary, sticky rice in canoes of thin, sweetened tofu, is also on sale now at Purchase.
Despite long-running favorites at its grill, sandwich station, and juice and yogurt smoothie creator, one might argue that the Hub has changed very little. This year it "proudly" serves Starbucks coffee, which was met with howls from the workers at the Co-op and apathy from everyone else. (I generally do not enjoy the burnt taste of Starbucks and have remained a fan of the Ritazza Roast.)
For all Hub naysayers, I announce that according to a high-ranking Chartwells official, who has been granted anonymity to discuss upcoming appetizing additions, the Hub will soon be vending take-out packages of pita bread with hummus, including varying spiced hummus, and even more enrapturing, preparing quesadillas for its patrons. The significance of quesadillas served in the hub is that students will soon have the option of meat in their cheese. The Chartwells official explained that it was common to see students purchase chicken fingers from the Hub, unpeel their quesadillas, and stick the fingers inside.
This supply to demand brings to mind the one positive utterance I've overheard from a sober student about Chartwells, which came from a girl who was giving a tour of the school to prospective Purchase students.
"Chartwells is our food service and it's good," she bellowed in the echoing upper mezzanine of the Dining Hall, as the high schoolers craned their kneck to investigate the empty tables and chairs of the off-hours cafeteria. "They take students' suggestions and actually listen to them. They're really good about that."
Our food service is looking out for us, and for the past two years I've felt protected. And also unable to watch my weight.
Matthew O’Rourke, sophomore undeclared at Wagner College, noted that his school food is also courtesy of Chartwells but insists that Purchase’s food is better. Like ours, his dining hall sports a large sign with the Chartwells signature illustrations of vegetables and the phrase, "Menutainment!" However, the Terra Ve section of his dining hall offers the same bowls of unseasoned barely and raw tofu everyday, and there is no Terra Bacon to be found anywhere. At Purchase O’Rourke sincerely feels menutained.