Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Lunch at the CIA

So I went down to New York City for the weekend and played tourist (I was even able to score a table at Per Se, more to follow on that tomorrow). I just made it back to campus with an hour before class. Enough time to grab some lunch and reflect on my surroundings.

Lunch in the cafeteria at the CIA is not your normal lunch. With 50 kitchens on campus, there is a lot to choose from. 12 of the kitchens are open for students to eat out of, most for just a 30 minute window. The cafeteria just started a new format this 3-week period. It is now called “Volume Feeding” class. This class serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, each for 3 hours. You can go through the line and get thinks such as a smoked salmon sandwich, Mediterranean pizza, or even just a burger. They also have stations set up to make Panini’s, salads and pasta to order. While this may sound mundane, you have to remember, all of this is happening in the chapel of a 200 year old Jesuit Seminary. It is the religious experience of food.

10 years ago as I sat in this room there would be a class of students that had just started that would be eating on the stage of the room. These students had to consume 5 course classical French cuisine every day for 3 weeks. Remember the freshmen 15, well; this was the A-block 15. That is gone. 10 years ago the chef instructors were setting in the alcoves of the old chapel, eating their lunch, and watching the students. The students would be called out by anyone of the instructors for unprofessional behavior. That is gone; they now have their own lounge.

Setting here eating lunch I realize this is not the same experience. I see students walking around with their ear buds in (which is not allowed). I see students that are not in complete uniform, which would never fly before, not even in the halls. And, sadly, I see food that is not consistent and that has not been seasoned. People scurry in grabbing their food quickly and pile it in their face. No recognition of the learning opportunity that they could be experiencing by tasting and talking about the food with the people at the table with them.

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