Checking dining hall menus is a daily ritual for me. As a first-year restricted to eating food on campus, I try hard to get the best of what’s available.
But the international dishes that UR dining services provide are not only inauthentic, but offensive.
I remember how giddily I marched to Dougie after seeing shrimp spring rolls on the menu, only to be disappointed to find a bowl of plain pho with vegetables and a singular shrimp. Not only was it not a roll, there was no broth for the pho.
Honestly, why are they even calling it a roll?
One time, I got excited for Danforth’s Szechuan Dan Dan Noodles — Chinese noodles mixed with spicy sauce and ground meat. I understand that not everyone has high tolerance for spice, but frying Japanese Udon with carrots and broccoli is nowhere close to Chinese Dan Dan Noodles. And, by swapping out one country’s noodles for another, dining is basically saying Chinese food and Japanese food are the same.
I am not the only one offended by how my culture is portrayed in the dining halls.
“When my club FASA [Filipino American Students’ Association] hosted Danforth’s themed dinner, they were serving one of my favorite foods called bistek, which is a beef dish traditionally served with rice,” said junior Julian Maceren, former FASA president “I was honestly so disappointed to see that during that night, ‘bistek’ was just beef on pizza. What hurt the most was seeing how people walked past it and gave it a disgusted face.”
I understand that dining hall food cannot always include authentic Asian ingredients, but they have a responsibility to portray the dishes as accurately as possible. If not, they run the risk of signaling to the student body that the food of a certain culture is not worth getting right.
Rice is one of the easiest things to cook. When I was five, I could make a bowl of standard white rice. Yet somehow, our dining halls can only cook wet, sloppy, uncooked mush. Even my caucasian friends —who have no idea what good rice tastes like — are disgusted by the white grainy paste they call rice.
I respect our staff’s effort to be innovative and providing us different food every day, but being too creative and going abstract with dining hall food is not the best solution. Our dining services should respect how international dishes are cooked, from the most basic staples to authentic dishes.
So please, UR dining halls, stop trying to be creative and stick to what’s authentic — represent our cultures appropriately.