In the first session of the orientation week in last September, Mr. Zhang Suogeng, deputy director of the cafeteria, informed us that our cafeteria was equipped with first-class sanitary facilities for cleaning utensils, and that the ingredients were guaranteed to be clean and fresh. At first, students and professors liked dining there and praised the dishes. However, as time went by, we grew tired of those dishes, since they seldom changed from week to week. At the end of last semester, the number of people eating in the cafeteria had shrunk to half of that in the beginning. Although dishes were cheaper and cleaner than those of the restaurants outside the center, students preferred to eat outside, at least for dinner or at weekends, as they desperately needed some variation in their meals. Because of this, many students requested more variation of dishes in the administration’s survey conducted at the end of last semester.
During the first week of this semester, many students sensed changes in the available dishes, perhaps because the suggestions have been heard. During the first week, we were hit with a new dish almost every day. Thousand-year eggs with appetizing paprika, stewed rice noodles in earthen bowls, beef and vegetables salad, and glutinous rice pie with sweet bean paste inside. There are also more options in the staple food category, including cake, baked sweet potatoes, spaghetti, steamed dumplings, big fried dumplings, shallot pancakes, fried glutinous rice balls, egg pancakes, stir-fried noodles, and so on. In addition to the old staples of last semester such as apple pies, Yangzhou fried rice, and steamed buns dotted with chopped carrot, every day we are served at least four different options.
Some students are satisfied with those changes, but many are expecting still more diversified recipes. According to a recent inquiry with the administration, it turns out that the changes derive from the fact that a new chef has joined the cafeteria this semester, so the chief chef has had more time to prepare various dishes, especially different staple foods.
The appeal of the school cafeteria is of great significance to our school’s social cohesion. To begin with, the cafeteria provides an excellent opportunity for students and professors to communicate with each other. International professors often choose to sit with students and talk with them. Also, as many students are busy or have differing class schedules, it becomes difficult to arrange a special time to chat with fellow students. Mealtime is an ideal opportunity for that. Students who are not familiar with each other can get to know each other and chat about the news or practice their target language. As a result, if the dishes are not attractive and people do not like to eat in the cafeteria, this social function of the cafeteria might be wasted.
Because the cafeteria is much cheaper than restaurants, price-sensitive students often find themselves trapped there. In this sense, the quality of a school’s cafeteria matters greatly. And of course, it is more convenient to eat in the cafeteria, which is particularly important when students are overwhelmed by classwork and activities. The quality of a school’s cafeteria means a lot not only to our taste buds, but to our school’s culture as well.