What the food is like at UMD

They'll keep coming back to this. (MPR / Alex Friedrich)

When I ate breakfast and lunch at UMD’s dining hall, I thought I was back in college.

Back in 1984.

That’s necessarily not a bad thing. I don’t have any bad memories of the food back then, and my old cafeteria did have a few standout dishes.

UMD’s fare is middling, workmanlike — better than what I’ve had at some campuses, but institutional at times. (And sure, it’s tough not to be that way when you’re feeding so many mouths.)

dining hall

But the students I’ve spoken to seem fairly satisfied with what they get.

For $7 or so for breakfast, I got the usual all-you-can-eat cafeteria grub: scrambled eggs, biscuits and gravy (no meat from what I could see), a selection of cereals, yogurt, fruit and such. My berry juice seemed like blueberry Gatorade, but it all did the job.

For a little more, I got fried chicken and some boiled-looking veggies for lunch. The chicken wasn’t bad, but the rotisserie chicken — one of the new additions — is the juicier way to go.

Among other things, there was also a section where cooks whipped up a daily special (veggie pasta today), a sandwich bar, salad bar, and a line of Asian foods (one of the daily themes).

Pretty standard stuff.

My dining partner, PJ-wearing Scotty Ducharme, told me students often complain about the repetitive nature of the dining hall food, and get out into an apartment as soon as they can.

But soon the whining begins:

“After a while, they tell me, ‘I’m so sick of having Minute Rice and ramen noodles. Can you give me one of your bonus meals and get me into the cafeteria?”

The dining hall is also the place where freshmen prove their mettle. Because that’s where the

waffle iron

waffle iron is.

Ducharme say’s it’s a pretty easy way to make waffles: Open the waffle iron. Spray it with oil. Pour the cup of batter into the griddle. Close it. Rotate it upside down.

It’s all on the easy-to-follow instructions printed and illustrated at the station, he says with a sweep of his hand.

But on schedule, the first few weeks brings in a crop of freshmen who just can’t seem to figure it out. They fail to spray the iron. Or they fail to rotate it. And it turns out a mess.

“So the first two weeks you see panicked freshmen trying to scrape out a waffle — holding up six people who are waiting behind them. I’m thinking, Man, and you say you’re studying structural engineering? OK.”