COLUMN: Cafeteria food is worse than you can imagine for diverse peoples
If you live on campus, you’re aware of the stigma students have against cafeteria food.
There’s nothing worse than having classes from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and then being forced to eat during the dreadful “snack time” in Central Michigan University’s Residence Halls. Growing up in the suburbs as a second-generation Filipino-American makes me hate cafeteria food and the lackluster snack time even more.
For students like me who didn’t grow up eating traditional American meals, cafeteria food is often their first foray into American cuisine outside of fast food and other restaurants. Cafeteria food does nothing but perpetuate the stereotype that white people eat bland and flavorless food, haven’t discovered seasonings other than Lawry’s Seasoned Salt, and think condiments like ketchup and A1 are spicy.
Regardless of race, it’s agreed upon that most people on campus are not a big fan of cafeteria food. People like me didn’t grow up eating casseroles, perch, and perogies. When we did eat, we definitely did not eat whatever versions of stir fry, fajitas, or lo mein that are paraded out at the international station.
People will tell me and others that “my mom makes the best (insert traditional American dish).” That’s cool dude, but I’ve only had it once at a college campus and I hated it. Unless your mom makes a batch for me, I’m never going to try Shepard’s pie ever again in my life.
In a way, cafeteria food exhibits all of the worst stereotypes about white culture. It’s a watered-down manufactured product that is force fed to everyone across the country because it’s so accessible.
There were days where the cafeteria food was so foreign to me that I felt wary about eating at all. Here I am at a new school surrounded by new people eating new foods that I’ve never tried before, and its bad. Just plain bad. That’s why
I spent a lot of days as an underclassman ordering delivery or take-out. There are some professors on campus who even have to drive to Lansing to find authentic food from their country. Various meats, grains, and sauces that you just can’t find at Ric’s, Kroger, or god-forbid Walmart.
Here’s a pro tip: Panda Express isn’t authentic Chinese food. And I know that cafeteria food isn’t authentic American food, either. Until we go and seek those authentic meals out for ourselves, we’ll never get a chance to see what all the hype’s about.
The difference here is that Mount Pleasant loves Panda Express, while I do my best to pick and poke at the meatloaf and sweet potatoes on my cafeteria plate.