Canteen food had never been a pleasant experience at secondary school and that was perhaps the one thing that didn’t change at university. Eating at college was a tedious slog of meal after meal of potatoes every day. I grew sick of potatoes at an astounding speed – potato soup, potato salad, mashed potatoes, fries, chips … you name it, they had it.
A year later, and I still cannot eat any form of potato without thinking of the dining hall. Despite the dismal food, I now look back at those days with a mixture of nostalgia and strange fondness, and the mention of potatoes never fails to bring a wry smile to my face.
I cannot recall how many evenings I’ve spent sitting in the dining hall, for hours on end. When the food had long been finished and the kitchen staff were cleaning, my friends and I would still be there, sprawled across a massive table, still engrossed in a conversation that had started hours ago. It is these snapshots that stick with me when I think about my first year at university.
I looked forward to Saturdays the most, because every Saturday we would have brunch. To everyone, “brunch” was an excuse to waste an afternoon poking at breakfast foods. So many of my friendships have been consecrated over three-hour bonding experiences, mostly discussing things about life, with nobody willing to return to their rooms to face the world of academia again.
Even though I’m living out this year, my friends and I still have our meals together. I am periodically invited to their houses for dinner and I am glad to say that some things never really change. We continue having our long conversations, avoiding academic responsibility after the meals are done.
The concept of a meal is so much more than just food, so slow down and enjoy them. Savour the food (unless it’s your fifth meal of dining hall potatoes in a row), but more importantly, savour the people you eat with.
Mealtimes are the best opportunities to make new friends and know people better – after all, everyone needs to eat! So go forth and find every excuse to eat. There’s a reason for the Freshman 15, or First Year Fatties; I’ve gained not just weight, but also precious friendships. Cheers to food!