Most of the fury over Yale Dining’s changes seems to have died down, and resentment at the lack of paper cups has subdued. But Yale students should not accept the current dining hall situation. The paper cups battle was unwinnable — you can never win when your opponent claims its way is greener — but, as the salad bar fiasco proved, students’ opinions on aesthetic dining choices hold some sway. Building on our newfound power, we should advocate for all cooking to be delegated to foreign workers.
For several months, I’ve fantasized about a system that would import chefs from around the world to cook Yale’s food.
It’s not that Yale Dining’s food is so bad. I really do like the salad bars, especially in their revamped, fresher incarnation. But our food gets boring. I am a staunch supporter of zucchini, but I might like baked zucchini, or stuffed zucchini or zucchini bread or a nice Malaysian zucchini every now and then.
Delegating our dining services would also make Yale students better informed, rounded, global citizens. A chef from Seoul could probably make a much better bibimbap than could a New Haven chef. Under my plan, chefs would be selected from various countries — including the United States — and would rotate through the colleges and Commons. The food would be superb.
Admittedly, this would not be so good for New Haven’s economy. It would send hundreds of workers into unemployment. It would not make Yale a good role model for the rest of the country or the world. But some things are important enough to warrant sacrifice. Our food is one of those things.
Well, not quite. Obviously, this plan is unfeasible, economically idiotic and ideologically screwed up.
But all too often, Yale Dining and Yale students seem to allow themselves to forget that food is not just a means of sustenance but an art on par with architecture or opera. We rush to classes or meetings and neglect the opportunity to eat slowly, to consider the flavors before us. Of course, there’s little motivation to do so when those flavors vary from chick peas to salad with chick peas to undercooked chick peas.
With their justification of prepared salads as fully considered decisions a few weeks ago, Yale Dining officials told us that we frequently fail to respect the artistry of cooking. With that statement, maybe they told us they’re up to the job. Our chefs want to give us a higher level of cuisine if only we would appreciate it. All too often, we complain about our food. But who are we to complain if we rarely even give the food proper attention?
Many of us eat between 15 and 20 meals in the dining halls each week. These meals feed us, but they should do more: They should entertain and educate us. Conversations over meals often entertain and educate, but discussion tends to be elevated to the level of the food with which it shares a table. There’s something to be said for decorum, as annoying and cumbersome as it can be, and when it comes in the form of delicious food, no one should object.
For all Yale’s support of the arts, the art of food goes wildly underappreciated. A meal can be an enlightening experience. We should learn that in the dining halls, and we should also be able to learn that in culinary classes.
Food can connect us to the world. Ethnic cuisines can teach us about other places, and New Haven chefs can connect us to this city. For all our concern about local ingredients, we could stand to think more about the fresh foods we eat.
Maybe a change as radical as outsourcing is a ridiculous idea, but the dining staff should lose its complacency. And it is our job to demand better food. We just have to pay attention, and Yale Dining has to recognize that we’re noticing and up the ante. Yale students are busy, and meals are an easy place to create more time. But by collectively rededicating ourselves to an underappreciated art, we could improve our lives each time we walk into a dining hall.
In the meantime, Yale Dining, do you think we could get some better hot sauce?