In my four years at John Brown University I have scanned my student ID, greeted the cheerful cashier behind the register and grabbed a plate of food in the Kresge Dining Hall approximately 1,800 times. The dining hall on campus —affectionately dubbed “the caf” by regular attendees like me —offers a wide variety of food each day to hungry students, staff and faculty members alike.
Yet, despite the assortment of food being served each day, one thing is almost always guaranteed to be on the menu: grumbling. Whether I hear it from passersby in the drink line or from my friend in the seat next to me, grumbling about the quality or diversity of the caf’s food seems to be inevitable.
Upon gazing at a steaming heap of ambiguously gray tater tot casserole on the plate in front of me, it can be easy to fall prey to this mindset and join the chorus of complaints. Yet, through numerous cases of trial and error, I have found that grumbling changes neither the color of the caf’s casseroles nor the consistency of their scrambled eggs.
After dirtying over 1,800 plates in the caf, I have learned that walking out of its doors with a smile results more from my attitude and less from the unfortunate cheese-to-tortilla ratio of my quesadilla. Yes, the food could be better but when dining in the caf, gratefulness — and a little bit of salt — go a long way.
One surefire way to bolster gratitude even in the face of soggy fries is to look around the caf — what do you see? You see a salad bar, a deli, a continuous supply of pizza, a taqueria with fresh guacamole, a home-style line that never fails to have potatoes in some form as well as two — not one — dessert tables, among several other possibilities.
You can even eat an ice cream cone every single day if you have a desire to relive my freshman year experience when I explored what it meant to not be restricted by my mom’s understocked kitchen and sugar-intake cautions.
In the caf, the options abound. Be thankful for the chefs’ thoughtfulness, hard work and skill that go into the caf’s menu each day. Be thankful for the faithful entrées that you look forward to seeing scooped onto your plate, like lasagna on cold winter evening.
Be thankful for the international cuisine you might have the opportunity to try for the very first time, like the grill line’s periodic Korean bibimbap.
Be thankful for your go-to meal for when nothing else seems to satiate your ravaging 18-credit-hour-semester appetite, like a classic turkey and cheese sandwich from the deli. Be thankful for the options. Be thankful for the consistency. If nothing else, be thankful for the salt on your table.