Zoe McGhee • Staff Writer
The pivotal moment our high school graduation caps slipped from our fingers and into the air was a moment that signified not new beginnings, nor tearful goodbyes, but the end of an era. An era that was often defined by stale rolls, mushy broccoli, and questionable hamburger meat.
Going to college meant that long gone were the days of cafeteria food comparable to cardboard, and hello on-campus restaurants and considerably better, healthier food options within the campus cafeteria, or as we call it here, the MET.
As a freshman, my expectations of the MET food varied between good and bad, as everything I had heard concerning the food itself and the company Sodexo seemed to be controversial. For example, from one upperclassmen I had heard that the food was to die for, and from another, I’d heard the exact opposite: that if one were to consume the food, they might actually die. However, I too believed the reign of unnatural, bland cafeteria food was over.
So, when choosing my meal plan, I chose the Blue plan due to my residence at Liberty Landing and the hopes that I would not be utterly disappointed in my lunch options. Choosing the Blue Plan meant that I chose one of the less bulkier plans, meaning that I only get about 40 meals per semester, including $400 dining dollars. However, the higher plans such as Orange, Star, Pride, and Patriot Premium all include a tiered amount of meals and dining dollars, with the most expensive and bountiful being the Patriot Premium. The plan was to eat breakfast and dinner at my apartment, and leave the fate of my lunch to the MET restaurants, or more importantly, Sodexo.
Monday mid-morning I decided to go ahead and grab lunch before my next class, and as I walked into the MET, I was greeted by a multitude of food options, as well as the renowned gentleman by the name of Larry, who took great pleasure in swiping my P2 card.
My taste buds were not in the mood for any extraordinary flavors, so I opted for the simple burger and fries, and oddly enough, decided to throw a few cucumbers on my plate for freshness. In order to spice up my palate, I seasoned the fries with seasoned salt and added a dash of ketchup to my otherwise boring burger.
The first bite of the burger itself was nothing short of average, and this mediocrity continued until the usual sidekick of burgers quickly became the star of my Monday meal. The fries were impeccable. Pure, crispy rectangular prisms of deliciousness. Due to this unforeseen milestone, I rate this meal a confident three swoops out of five. Two for the immaculate fries, and one for the mediocre burger that held a small amount of flavor.
On Tuesday I had the luxury of taking a little more time for lunch, so I decided to take a crack at the main lineup for the culinary concert of the day, which seemed to be more on the Italian side of the food family. My hunger influenced me to go for yet another carb catastrophe, in which I decided to eat baked ziti, parmesan chicken, and a simple dinner roll.
Though at first glance the meal did slightly resemble restaurant quality, it was the first bite of the pasta that sent the tower of hope that I had been slowly constructing, tumbling down.
There was a distinct lack of flavor, and any pizazz the sauce on the noodles was suggesting was nowhere to be found. The pasta itself was chewy, and had an odd film that coated the noodles. Yet, I forced it down due to my ravenous state. After this utter disaster I decided to move onto the chicken, in which I soon discovered required the strength of 1,000 men to tear apart, and was greeted with a widespread pink interior, which is typically a big no-no for chicken.
Following this monsoon of disappointment, I decided to try the roll, saddled with a single shred of hope. Unfortunately I was once again disappointed, as the roll was as dry as the Sahara, and tough to pull apart. This meal receives a sad one swoop out of five, simply for the kind woman who served it to me and for a deceitful presentation.
Wednesday morning I was faced with a small break between classes, so as I’m sure many of you may expect, I went to the MET for lunch. As a creature of habit, I decided to go straight for the American favorite, pizza. I was faced with two options, the classic pepperoni or the more exotic supreme. I chose to make the best of both worlds and selected one of each.
Pizza is difficult to mess up, so I went into this meal with hope only because of this assumption. Due to my previous dining experiences, I was a little wary. However, growing up surrounded by various, well-loved, pizza places, I can confidently confirm that this pizza can hold its own. Perfect ratio of crust to cheese to toppings, and just the right amount of grease to make sure you know your arteries are clogged, but not enough for you to physically feel it. A soaring four swoops out five. The last swoop is reserved for only the best of the best, and I have yet to discover that in the MET.
If you’re seeking a super healthy meal, perhaps the MET isn’t for you, unless a nice salad from the salad bar sounds like the perfect, everyday cuisine. If you’re a vegan, there are options available, but as stated before, not the healthiest. However, besides the health factor, I’d say taste is pretty good in some instances.
What Sodexo truly lacks is consistency. While mass producing meals isn’t ideal to serve on a gourmet level, there’s still a little more to be desired concerning overall food quality. Looking at the big picture: not bad Sodexo, not bad. We’ve surpassed school lunches by a miniscule factor, and even so, I still get rare, vivid flashbacks to soggy burgers and rectangular pizza. However, my final rating would come out to be a solid three swoops out of five. But, there’s always room for improvement, so let’s keep shooting for five.