To be fair, there is nothing fundamentally wrong with dining hall food at school. It's largely edible, somewhat filling, and vaguely satisfying as sustenance. However, I do find myself longing for the days of yore when I took certain foods for granted, because I now actively miss those foods. There are some foods that dining halls just cannot recreate properly. Dining halls may "provide students with balanced, nutritious meals," but on certain foods, they just fall flat.
For some reason, I'm always disappointed by dining hall spaghetti. Usually it's slightly watery and generally worse than, say, dining hall penne or macaroni. And the sauce-from-a-can that often tops the spaghetti doesn't help. Whenever I go home, I find myself craving home-cooked spaghetti more than just about any other food. A nice plate of spaghetti soothes the soul like no other pasta.
The one time I experimented with dining hall soup, it was potato chowder. And it was extremely disappointing. I can't say that the sight of soup in the dining hall ever excites me, whether it's chicken noodle, tomato, or last night's pork rinds. In general, dining hall soup just does not compare to home-cooked soup; it never smells nearly as enticing as soup from home and leaves a bad taste in my mouth. If I want soup as a first year at school, I'll stick with microwave ramen.
3. Properly Cooked Meat
I will say that I have had some dining hall chicken this year that was quite good. But on the whole, I feel that dining hall meat, especially beef, is not only sub par, but often extremely difficult to eat, period. There have been countless times this year where I have gotten roast beef or pork from the dining hall with high hopes and spent at least five minutes attempting to cut it. After that, I usually gave up and drowned my sorrows at the deli station, dreaming of the meat from my childhood that only took one minute to cut.
4. Non-Rubbery Fish
I only experimented with dining hall fish for about the first three weeks of the year. After that, I realized that it was just unwise to continue counting the rubbery fish-like specimen in front of me as a meal. Frozen tilapia heated up in my home oven far outscores whatever fish I ate in September at a dining hall. Delicious home-grilled salmon is on an entirely different continent from "steamed and seasoned haddock." In general, I feel that dining hall fish is equivalent to an 8 a.m. class: just avoid it unless there are absolutely no other options.
5. Large First (And Second) Helpings
This last one is not a food per se, but I do feel that dining halls sometimes skimp on portions. I understand that they have to feed thousands of students every day, and thus they may not pile your plate high. But is it too much to ask for more than one tiny meatball when meatballs are on the dinner menu? Yes, I could just ask the dining hall worker for more food. But that requires that I actually want more of whatever is being served, which is rarely the case. While at school, I definitely miss the more luxurious, satisfying portions that I enjoyed at home.
There are many things about college I have come to love, but day-to-day dining is not really one of them. Thanks, parents, for providing me with delicious meals all my life that I can look forward to whenever I come home!