For the 2001 Yale Dining Services’ customer satisfaction survey, the third most-popular write-in answer to the question, “What do we do that you hope we will never change?” was PanGeos.
This year, the hats are the same, the flags are the same, the ice cream scoops of rice are the same and excesses of cilantro are the same. But for students in the select residential colleges with PanGeos stations, things couldn’t be more different.
To the shock and dismay of some, the thrill and applause of others, and the flagrant indifference of still others, PanGeos stations rotated at the beginning of this academic year, kicking off a new and invigorating rotation schedule for the multi-cultural food stations. From now on, the United Nations of dining hall fare will change every six months, giving the lucky Yalies in Silliman, Pierson, Morse and Ezra Stiles colleges a different station each semester. Yale University Dining Services director David Davidson said the purpose of the new policy is to provide students with more variety in their international cuisine options.
“After a while, no matter how long it’s there, it’s going to be old,” he said.
Indeed, initial statistics show students reacting very positively to the changes. Davidson said Pierson College, which has “The Pasta Concept” this semester, opened with record dinner turnouts. In a record turnout last Tuesday, 310 students ate in Pierson, 270 of whom partook of the pasta station, he said.
Last year, the pasta station was in Ezra Stiles College, which now has the Granary, which used to be in Commons. Silliman and Morse colleges traded nationalities, sending Latin America up Wall Street to Morse and Asia down to Silliman.
The changes seem to have reinvigorated once numb Yale palates, given new life to the common student and Aramark gourmand alike.
Monique Webb, Silliman’s PanGeos chef, said the new dishes have, at least temporarily, rekindled student interest in PanGeos.
“I like the new one much better,” Webb said, “and it’s a good idea to change because it was getting a little too repetitious for the kids last semester.”
And diners waiting in line for tofu, shitake mushrooms and noodles in Asian sauce at Silliman’s Asian PanGeos stand last night largely responded in kind. Though some noted that PanGeos tends to be based on a few central ingredients — in particular, what looks like uncooked Ramen noodles, mushrooms and spicy peanut sauce — most welcomed the change.
Lars Casteen ’04, a self-described PanGeos afficionado who requests his Asia PanGeos without mushrooms, said, “I like PanGeos. It makes me feel like a man.”
Others delighted less in the PanGeos machismo and more in the PanGeos philosophy of providing varied ethnic foods to Yale students.
“I haven’t had enough time to get sick of this one yet,” said Lisa LeCointe ’03, “and the portions are larger, so that’s good.”
But LeCointe, lamenting what she called the dining service’s low degree of cultural cooking awareness, noted that the dish titles are vague and the placards could be more informative.
“They say they use this Asian sauce,” she said. “But they don’t tell you where it’s from. Asia’s a big place.”
Sarah Post ’04, a student in Ezra Stiles, said though she misses the pasta station, she is pleased with the Granary, which serves vegetarian dishes.
“The Granary is kind of the hippie PanGeos, and not many people like it,” she said. “Literally, it’s like me and three other people. But I eat it every night.”
Overall, PanGeos seems to espouse standard Yale values of diversity and adventure, and a number of students said they simply appreciate having the power of choice.
Ming Thompson ’04, a former dining hall worker and current PanGeos defender and enthusiast, said the latest rotation has been a welcome change among her friends.
“It’s almost like we’re taking a non-stop flight around the world,” she said. “I wonder where we’ll go next.”
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