Recently, I was at Chili's-- a statement that could only make sense in 1996 (which, appropriately, is the last time that most of their food was fresh). And that got me thinking, college food isn’t the worst thing in the world, despite what we have been led to believe.
Hear me out. Admittedly, the stuff isn’t the best to begin with, so lower your standards accordingly. You shouldn’t walk into the dining hall expecting the next coming of Christ (unless you eat the meat, in which case you might meet him pretty quickly).
This is a timely article, too, as most college students are currently on winter break, a time for showering without shower shoes and ignoring people from your high school while in line at Subway. During your stay at home, you will have to answer about why you chose to return, at which point you will say it's for the food (this is obviously a lie; the correct answer is to see your dog).
If you spend 5 minutes talking to someone from Virginia Tech or James Madison University, they will invariably talk about how their respective school is full of wonderful dining options. Admittedly, the food at these schools is great, but choosing a university based on the dining options is like choosing a movie based on whether or not Nicholas Cage is in it.
At William and Mary, we don't have the luxury of enjoying delicious dining hall food, but I'm not sure that's totally a bad thing. One of the main complaints about dining hall food is that many freshman and sophomores are forced to buy meal plans. But there are many things in life that we still have to pay for even though we hate it, like tolls and cable TV channels that only play Everybody Loves Raymond reruns.
But college food wasn’t designed to be good, it was designed to appropriately lower your dining standards for the real world. Eating the food every day simply amplifies how horrible it is. It's like "Groundhog Day;" you only begin to hate it after you eat it every day. As "Smash Mouth sang in "All-Star," "we could all use a little change."
You would hate a lot of things you like if you did them every day. If you went to Disney World every day of the year, you would a) run out of money after the 3rd day, and b) not like it anymore, as you heard "It's A Small World" pounded into your skull. Doing anything repeatedly drains the excitement out of it, and your hatred of dining hall food is less a commentary about the quality of the food rather than the repetitiveness of which you consume it.
Not that the quality is amazing either-- it's designed to be bland and non-offensive. My mother and I have come up with the term “Kohl’s music” to describe the wishy-washy soft rock that plagues suburban shopping malls and rest stop bathrooms alike. Maroon 5, Coldplay, anything that you listened to in middle school where the singer’s voice is higher than our national debt—this is all Kohl’s music. Then, I realized that dining hall food is effectively the Kohl’s music of the real world: deliberately boring, but enough to cause anger when consumed en masse.
There you have it kids. Live with it. Dining hall food isn't the worst thing in the world, and if you don't recognize that, you need to go to Chili's too. When the next biological pandemic strikes and you survive thanks to your immunity, thank college dining food. That'll be one meal swipe, please.