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In Defence of Hall Food

Jonathan Chatterjee takes an optimistic view of regimented meal times.

I’m fed up. I live in St Regulus, and I often hear my fellow Regsians – or, really, my fellow catered students across The Bubble – complain about hall food. Admittedly, some of this food is best steered clear of (the rice, cooked en masse, is crunchy; the sweetcorn has little flavour) – but the food by and large is actually very good – or, at least, something I am deeply grateful for.

There are several things that I actually prefer about eating in halls over my family home. One of them is the breakfasts. Some complain that breakfast begins too early, and I certainly understand the issue. My alarm goes off at 9 am on weekdays, I lie for a few minutes in bed, and perhaps browse Facebook, but must get out of bed by 9:07. Believe me, I’ve gotten out of bed at 9:08, but by the time I get dressed and get to breakfast, the food is gone. It’s soul-crushing when your phone says 9:14 and yet all the food has gone because their clocks are a minute or two faster. I feel bitter, borderline furious that breakfast ends so early.

Yet I believe this is ultimately for my own good. Being forced to wake up an hour or two before my lectures (on pain of starvation – or, in my case, eating rice and chutney for breakfast) gives me time to revise and do extra work. Not that I use it for that, of course. I normally use it for work I should have done days ago. But the point is that the opportunity is there.

I love the routine of knowing exactly when I can eat. What halls food may lack in taste and quality it makes up for in punctuality. I love browsing the internet or working during the evening, while looking into the corner of my laptop screen, counting down the minutes until I can eat again. 5:45 is the magic number.

My biggest disagreement with the hall food-haters is over the quality of the food itself. I would certainly say the Regs breakfast is among the least tasty fry-ups I’ve ever had. But it is a fry-up nonetheless. I dread the day when I leave uni, and wake up with neither black pudding nor haggis to stuff into my face. What else could motivate me to get up at such an ungodly hour as 9:07 in the morning?

People complain about there being too many potatoes – and that potato-based products will be available for every meal. But so what? Potatoes are versatile and delicious. Chips and crisps, roasties and wedges, boiled and mashed: the potato is the goose that laid all of these delicious golden eggs. There’s a reason we hardly eat parsnips and turnips anymore in Britain, as we did before we discovered the wondrous spud. This fantastic piece of nature is packed full of carbs, yet is much easier to prepare than such rivals as rice or pasta.

Maybe the only real problem with halls food, then, is the plight of vegetarian students. I accidentally once had the vegetarian food (I panicked in the moment), and it was an ambitious combination of cheese and cranberry. Regs seems to think vegetarians’ lives should be fuelled almost entirely on goats’ cheese, given the variety (or lack thereof) of veggie meals.

But even veggies who don’t like goats cheese have potatoes to console them.

And I’ve already said what I think of potatoes…

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