We are blessed to have a clean, state-of-the-art new cafeteria with a superabundance of food ready for the hundreds of aspiring intellectuals who dash through it each day. That being said, there is a disturbing change that assaults the returning student immediately upon entering the redesigned food space: the morphing of the salad bar from a beacon of healthful culinary creativity into an impersonal distribution station. No longer can one anticipate the joy of assembling wild combinations of fresh baby spinach, carrots, olives, peppers, artichokes and the occasional feta cheese and garbanzo beans. Now, in our futuristic cafeteria, a gloves-wearing staff member throws together a meager salad on demand.
The reason for these changes is obvious. It is surely more sanitary when students are forbidden from pawing through the fruits and vegetables. The arrangement begs the question of whether the benefits of sterility are worth the cost in craftsmanship. When one can take part in the creation of a wholesome salad, one can take ownership of a meal and a way of life. With the new system, one is hurried along in an assembly line made bearable only by the pleasant staff. Where the former invites creativity (as seen in the many astounding dishes born of the old salad bar), the latter smacks of a cold, utilitarian attitude.
Our cafeteria is not entirely to blame for this catastrophic undermining of the human spirit; it is, after all, merely a symptom of a grander problem. It was not always so: I have heard a few tales from the old guard about the ancient University of Dallas cafeteria in which there was but one entrée. If one did not like that meal, one did not eat. To the modern capitalist this seems barbaric. Why, one should have options and clean service!
I beg to differ. While I do see the highly individualized salad bar as a great good (before it was co-opted by the sanitation police), I would much prefer the cafeteria of yesteryear. Some would say that the concepts of family meals and cafeteria dining are necessarily and in all ways opposed. However, eating in community requires commonality; what better way to incite collectivism in a positive sense than to feed everyone who comes to dinner the same meal? Certainly, this is a far cry from gathering around the dinner table proper, but it offers a comforting impression of the family meal. No more of this single-serve salad line, solitary sandwich bar, and pick-and-choose foodstuffs galore. The harried wayfarers are fragmented into a dozen lines heading to unknown destinations for interminable lengths of time, all in the name of options and cleanliness. It is madness.
Of course, it should be mentioned that these fanciful dreams will never be realized. The many diverse dietary needs of the student population would make a single entrée highly impractical, if not impossible. The newly finished Haggar Café will proceed as it was designed to function for many years to come.
As such, I, along with many of my peers, in a small way mourn the loss of the self-serve salad bar. Nonetheless, we must recognize that even the old salad bar was a shocking departure from the original, almost familial dining that was for so long integral to the cafeteria experience. In order to regain what has been lost, I encourage the underclassmen with meal plans: Do not mourn excessively. Rather, seek out friends with whom to delight in the wonders of cooking. Once a month or once a week, if one can make a fine meal and share it with friends, one will nourish not only the body but also the soul.