If you have read my column in the past, you may have learned how to up your pasta game in the dining hall. Now instead of bland noodles and overly sweet red sauce, your pasta dinner boasts protein, veggies, sauces and savory spices. What about breakfast? The often forgotten about meal, when most people shovel bites of tasteless oatmeal or plastic yellow faux egg with their eyes still struggling to open fully. And what about lunch? At lunch your sandwich is really quite sad—its pale turkey, melted cheddar and drooping lettuce leaving your taste buds unfulfilled. These meals can be more than the necessitated intake of calories to get you through the day; these meals can become culinary creations.
I don’t know what it is about oatmeal, but people often equate it with tasteless mush, destined to work and be filling, but never exciting. I challenge this notion. Next time you go for a bowl of oatmeal in the morning, leave room to add a lot of other food in the bowl. For your first addition, scope out the fruit options. I have added banana slightly mashed up, apples and oranges cut into pieces. But I have also gone through the waffle line and asked for some strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and strawberries for the top of my oatmeal. These fruits sure beat canned peaches. Next, saunter over to the peanut butter (your oatmeal bowl already a proud colorful peacock amongst city pigeons) and add a generous helping of crunchy peanut butter to it with honey drizzled on top. Now the trick with peanut butter is to quickly mix it into the middle of your hot oatmeal so it melts. Next, head to the yogurt and if you please add a dollop on top, finishing off your creation with a sprinkle of raisins. Now, one last piece of advice I have for all of you out there is that if you want to add some flare to your oats, don’t soak them in hot water, but in coffee. Coffee oatmeal sounds like an up-and-coming fad at cafes if I don’t say so myself, so don’t miss your chance to get in on this latest culinary trend right here in Grinnell. Coffee is the perfect match for a sweet treat, so think of this like eating a peanut butter and honey oatmeal cookie with coffee.
At lunch, I urge you not to become disheartened by the noon rush crowds, and take the time and effort to fight against the wave of diners in order to create a purposeful and innovative meal. A lunchtime staple is the sandwich, yet similar to oatmeal, sandwiches are often unfairly characterized as bland. I want to give the sandwich a chance to burst from its meat-cheese-lettuce confines until it shines as it was always meant to. The sandwich line provides many tasty additions to the basic sandwich formula such as banana peppers, onions, carrots and all kinds of mysterious sauces with names like “chipotle red pepper.” But even these exciting options can get boring over time. Next time you get a sandwich, I encourage you to consider a different bread. What about a bagel? Better yet, what about the bread option by the soups? Those bread options change every day and often boast new and interesting flavors, such as olive bread with rosemary. You can also expand with your meat option, scouting the dining hall for any meat that would work well in a sandwich, such as grilled chicken. As a former sandwich bar employee myself, I can assure you that we get all sorts of strange meats and bread, and were always excited to see how it would turn out.
Now what about after you’ve got your sandwich in hand, cheese bubbling like hot lava and bread delightfully toasted? Resist the urge to dig in right away. Instead, head over to the salad bar. Toss some mushrooms on top of your sandwich, add a sprinkle of spinach. See those bacon bits, green peppers and egg? Throw it all on! Nothing is out of the question at the salad bar, including the dressings. Soar beyond your average mustard and mayo to enjoy a sandwich with Greek feta cheese dressing. Your sandwich will not disappoint, as melted cheese, bread, veggies, meat and sauce is guaranteed to taste great. My only warning is that your friends might be rendered silent for a while, unable to focus on anything else but the copious ingredients of your sandwich interacting to produce tastes and textures you never knew existed. How better to reinvigorate yourself before your afternoon classes than with a wake up to the taste buds!
Now, if you are a fan of ice cream at lunch, I have one last suggestion. If the classic combination of salty and sweet leaves you salivating, then try this; get vanilla ice cream, pour chocolate or vanilla sauce on top, and then sprinkle on some kosher salt from the spice rack on top. Just make sure not to go overboard with this, as you don’t want the salt to overpower the sweet.