By Madeline Perez
One downside to being the most productive publication on campus (by strides, I may add) is that we have a lot of pages to fill. A lot. It is during the late night Bing Review production hours, fueled by anger and Dr. Pepper, where certain articles are written last minute in haste and disarray. This is one of those times.
I considered a lot of possible ideas. A good couple. Most of them were pretty bad. Eventually, I came to the conclusion that it would probably be easiest to write about something I’m angry about. Yes, it’s true, sometimes your humble narrator in whom you’ve become so intimately familiar with over my past horrendous articles feels embarrassing emotions like “anger,” “frustration,” and “rage to the point of pillow-punching violence.” Though I don’t feel this often, the things I choose to be passionate about I have very strong opinions on. And one of those things is food quality. Especially the food quality of food I eat. Especially the food quality of food served to me by an establishment that is taking all of my money. This brings me to the actual point of this “article,” complaining about the food quality of the Binghamton Dining Halls. And this is an article long past due.
Before I start this complete decimation of Binghamton’s food-related confidence, I do find it necessary to add a disclaimer about my intentions. I don’t mean to insult any individual who works in the dining halls, especially because, having worked in the food industry myself, I am all too familiar with the lack of control food preparers and servers have in the actual quality. I understand that many of the changes made under the COVID Age were necessary and the people organizing things were and are doing their best. It’s just that their best could definitely be better. I also want to make it clear I haven’t really done anything myself to fix these issues besides voting in those email polls about what food I’d like to eventually eat in a hypothetical future. Confrontation isn’t exactly my favorite at the best of times.
My first grievance about dining hall food is the fact that it’s just not good. The pizza is somehow both soggy and burnt. the pasta is bland and overcooked to hell—taking on a mush-like play dough quality (plus, smooth penne? Do you really hate your students this much? This is an actual crime). Most of the food lacks basic seasoning. The sandwich I bought was actually inedible and with each bite I was reminded of the acute pain that exists in the world as a whole. The fries I ate at C4 were so greasy I was reminded of the guys at my high school. So far, every time I’ve seen someone eat dining hall meat they have winced at its rubbery texture and bland taste, sometimes opting to feed it to the bugs, animals, or hungry garbage cans on campus. Sadly, I can’t really comment on the meat-including foods, being a non-meat-eater, whatever that’s called.
Which conveniently brings me to my next point: it’s gotten considerably harder to be vegetarian in Binghamton. This is kinda an obvious point given the immense cut of all food options, but like… come on. This meal plan cost $2,747 a semester. And my choice is mush or sleep for dinner. The garden station in CIW is significantly better than the other booths, as they actually season their food (thank God) and it definitely feels like there’s more love and care embedded in the food. That being said, it costs basically double than the meat options served. The vegans are being financially oppressed. Also, side note, sometimes the vegetarian option is marked with a red dot sticker, and the meat option has a green sticker, which was acutely distressing and anxiety inducing especially when you can’t see inside the mystery box. The PETA rating, that each dining hall bears with pride, should not be an A+. Despite the fact that nearly every vegan and vegetarian despises PETA for making animal activists look insane, I’m sure their rating system can be better than this. In addition to the lacking vegetarian options, the omelet station (which I used to adore, so please bring it back) wouldn’t always clean off their stovetop and spatulas, so sometimes I would find stray bacon bits in my food, either visually or gustatorily. That is cringe.
Many students have given up on dining hall food as a whole, opting to eat at the marketplace, often daily and multiple times a day. Now, this would be fine, if these innocent students weren’t also being charged $2000 a semester for the Meal Plan Subscription, that thing that makes the dining hall food cost cheaper. Considering this, students are being subconsciously tricked into believing that since their food is cheap it’s allowed to taste cheap, so it’s not that big a deal if they spend money on terrible food. But we are being cheated out of a lot of money and the food we’re being served is an insult to injury. I came to Binghamton prepared to bulk up, for as you surely know, it is bulking season. This isn’t even a joke. I actually was banking on those omelets to help me gain a few, but now since Binghamton has decided to starve me out, I’m afraid bulking is going to have to wait.
Best case scenario, Binghamton realizes their mistake, refunds me $2000, and issues a formal apology for the suffering they’ve put their students through. If the food quality doesn’t improve, hopefully the masses will come to their senses and stop buying the expensive-ass subscription when they’re just buying the full priced marketplace foods. Just a thought. To end on a lighter note, the mashed potatoes I had the other day were actually pretty good.