Dear Dining Halls,
It’s time that you get some recognition. I’m not going to lie, I was expecting the absolute worst from you. Expectations were low and my snack bins were full enough to feed a family of 7 for 5 months. Listen, all I knew prior to coming was the golden trilogy of college: ramen, Easy Mac, and a ton of coffee. But aside from the coffee, Cornell Dining, you have proven me so wrong.
Upon my first arrival to RPCC, all of the signs pointed in the direction of classic unsatisfactory college food. From the plastic plates, to those god awful mugs that could have been crafted from playdough, to the anxiety triggering swarms of people–things were not looking good. Then, a light seemed to shine from afar: The salad bar illuminated with an inviting glow. An array of fancy grains, fresh fruits and crispy vegetables were, dare I say, Whole Foods-esque? It didn’t end there; after a few visits to RPCC, confidence started to build and we mustered up the courage to check out the stir-fry and pasta sections. I have to admit, it is still frightening to wait on those lines, but so worth it. When things seemed like they couldn’t get better, we discovered the sushi bar. Now you’re just spoiling us.
As we freshmen started to further integrate ourselves into the Cornell community and dropped mention of North Campus’ dining hall glory, condescending chuckles were thrown back at us. Turns out Appel and RPCC are merely the cheese and crackers at the Cornell dinery party. The next phase of dining experience kicked off with Risley, and honestly it will always end with Risley. Adjacent to North campus, Risley’s dining hall is the hidden gem that everyone loves to tell their friends about, but also purposefully doesn’t to keep the enchanted space to themselves. Before you even taste the food, the atmosphere is enough to make you feel like something special is about to happen or you’re about to go in front of the Hogwarts Sorting Hat.
Not only do they serve great food, but Risley also introduces unique recipes including quinoa lasagna, poke bowls, vegan desserts and non-stop vegetarian nachos. Remember all of those times you had to pay extra for avocado? Well fear not, Risley makes up for all of those moments of defeat with their always fully stocked avocado portion of the poke bowl bar.
After a month in, we were ready to venture off to West Campus, and now we wish we could just keep reliving that first experience again and again. We pondered: how much better could it really get? Well in the Cornell fashion, they found a way. I don’t know who is back there cooking, but they truly care about their craft. Every night the meals are so distinct, not just a cold array of mass-produced food. Fajitas, Chinese food, stir-fry, Italian, the list goes on and on. Endless banana chips at the salad bar? I can’t help but restrain myself when pouring them onto my salad in fear that there will be the Trillium scale waiting for me on the way out. One night they even had the Pinterest-level “no-bake cookies.” That takes some care and true dedication to conjure up a dessert that hip and elaborate. But don’t worry, you’re not going unnoticed West Campus dining halls, regardless of your terribly inconvenient location.
Throughout this beautiful discovery experience through campus eating was the occasional catching up with friends at other colleges. Common statements from them included, “Freshman 15? Yeah right, I can’t eat anything here” or “I just eat in my room” or “I can’t look at another mozzarella stick again.” On the other side of the phone I peer over at Terrace and think back to the sublime quesadilla I just ate at Trillium, and, trying to relate, I say, “Yeah, sometimes the soup is really salty here.” A truly pathetic attempt at empathizing. But it isn’t even like we have to worry more about the Freshman 15 because the food is all so nutritious and fresh. I think most of us can say we have eaten more Tofu these past 2 months than we have in our entire lifetime. I wish I could spread the Cornell dining love all around to my hungry friends, but it is what is it. Basically, we thank you deeply for it.