Proposed overhaul of Mills dining services

By
March 17, 2008

The most passionately expressed opinion that seems to permeate throughout the Mills campus is one of food, and its general inadequacy. Come now, ladies, for the indecent amount of money we spend attending this alleged prestigious school, we deserve properly delicious foods to nourish both our minds and bodies.

The food provided by Bon Appetit is, without second consideration, dull, uninspiring, and insipidly bland. I’m sure pudding made from powder mix makes some people lick their lips in anticipation, just as much as indescribably character-less mystery potato dishes make some rub their belly with gastronomic delight, but I prefer dishes made from fresh, recognizable ingredients, prepared healthfully and with creative insight. I’m sure most of you do, as well. After all, who wouldn’t gaze starry-eyed at a menu with such options as Pesto Pasta with Grilled Chicken and Roasted Red Peppers, or Chile Rellenos with Creme Fraiche and Baked Fava Beans, or maybe a simple Acorn Squash Soup with Garlic Croutons and Caramelized Shallots?

What I find particularly interesting is each of these exquisite meals is based upon simple, fresh produce at an affordable price. Good food does not come from expensive catering institutes like Bon Appetit. Good food comes from simple ingredients cooked well; curiously enough, this simple equation is often not performed at its highest capacity.

What I propose is for Mills women to band together, like we have before, to revolutionize the food at our school. The negativity surrounding our campus food has penetrated the underbelly of our school like a poison, a flicker of distaste momentarily apparent on all our faces, but not enough for us to collectively join together and make a change. To take a dramatic note, many of us who study history know well that revolutions occur quickly, rapidly, almost impulsively to climax with a thunderclap, to then be remembered in the annals of history as that one moment that truly made a difference in the way things were done. Now, I’m not asking for the brandishing of torches and midnight marches with chants of “Braise, Saute, Simmer: Bring back intelligible, edible food.” What I do ask is that we provide ourselves with a genuine interest and involvement in the culinary courses and club offerings next semester.

We will democratically vote on meals on a weekly basis, placing close seconds as considerations for next week; we will campaign to retrain the culinary staff on campus to properly cook and serve foods; we will provide healthy, vegetarian options that do not rely excessively on starches; we will place more funding on the campus garden, so we can provide organic, fresh foods for future generations of Mills; we will take an active involvement in answering surveys so the staff knows exactly how you wished to be served. We cannot rely on others to read our minds. It is up to us to tell others what we desire in our food.

I will be hosting a quaint, culinary course on April 20. If enough people take interest, participate, and provide positive feedback, this would prompt me to petition for a culinary club next semester, hopefully with enough funding to provide you with the materials and ingredients necessary for such an endeavor. Following this letter is a survey I hope all of you reading will fill out, as it will provide me with a rubric for the class, as well as a general consensus on what the Mills student body prefers in their food options – for future reference.

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CULINARY CLASS/CLUB QUESTIONNAIRE:

*For efficiency, please copy and paste the following questionnaire/survey into your email and send to jjudge@mills.edu. Use a + sign to indicate a “Check.” If this, somehow, is not an option, please print out and place in the bin labeled “CULINARY SURVEY” located in the Olin Library at the Front Desk. Thank you.

Check any of the following topics you would be interested in for topics in a culinary club:

__Pies/Tarts (including doughs: Pate Brisee, Puff Pastry, Shortbread, Date/Nut crust)

__Chocolate (Ganache, Truffles, Tempering)

__Pastry Sauces (Creme anglais, pastry cream, traditional buttercreams – swiss, french, italian, meringues)
*to be incorporated in a possible Layer Cake Class.

__Cookies (old-school chocolate chip, oatmeal-raisin, and new age pumpkin-ginger, meyer lemon anise)

__General Desserts (Filo Dough, Cobblers, Pavlova, Compotes)

__Gluten-Free Desserts (flours: oat, spelt, buckwheat, chickpea, brown rice, etc)

__Healthy Desserts (ingredient substitutions – fruit purees, oil, no excessive reliance on tofu here!)

__Vegan/Vegetarian Desserts

__Raw Food Desserts *do not consume if you have nut allergies and a distaste for coconut.

__ Raw Foods/Living Cuisine *do not consume if you have nut allergies or a distaste for coconut.

__Mexican Cuisine

__Peruvian Cuisine

__Pan-Asian Cuisine

__French Cuisine

__Basic Cooking Workshop (Saute, Braise, Simmer, Reductions, Monte au Buerre, Pan-Fry, Stocks, Blanching)

__Knife Skills (julienne, batonnet, chiffonade, tournet for you hardcore enthusiasts)

__Basic Sauces (Bordelaise, Hollandaise, Sauce Veloute)

__Garde Manger (canapes and appetizers)

MILLS CAMPUS FOOD QUESTIONNAIRE:

1) Are you content with the current campus food offered by Mills?

__YES__NO__I’m indifferent.

2) Please list the dish you most frequently enjoy at Mills.

3) What would you say is the most flagrant problem with the food at Mills? (You may choose more than one, or number your choices, # 1 being the biggest problem, # 10 the smallest)

__ Quality (undercooked, overcooked, indecipherable ingredients)

__ Variety (too much repetition of meals/ingredients; not enough options for vegans, kosher, macrobiotics, etc)

__Ethnocentric food (not enough cultural varieties: indian, mexican, mediterranean, asian).

__ Taste (bland, dull, too salty, too spicy, anything less or more than it should be)

__ Price (for the limited or poor choices, the meal plan is too high)

__ Service (unpleasant or slow staff)

__ Sanitation (unhygienic use of hands, hairs in food, etc)

__ Health (unhealthy food options, too much starch, too much oil/butter, too much sodium – we want to watch our
weight and remain hypertension-free! )

__ Ingredients (sensation that something is canned rather than fresh)

__ Other (Feel free to list anything else on your mind!)

4) Would you like the option to vote as a student body on possible meal choices? (Say, for example, if mashed potatoes were always a side dish option, you may vote to have this changed, or at least placed in rotation with other side dish options a few times a month).

__YES, I like variety, and choosing variety. I’m a socialist.__NO, I prefer to have a fairly stagnant availability of food. I like predictability.
I’m a capitalist.

5) This is the open question. Feel free to vent any bottled-up complaints, aggravations, or general frustrations you may have. You may also express what you enjoy about the food on campus, what you think is done right, and what current meals or dishes you’ve enjoyed.

Thank you for your time and endurance!


Proposed overhaul of Mills dining services was published on March 17, 2008 in Opinions

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