By Candace Sara Ciju
Food has enormous power, from influencing our life experiences to uplifting entire communities. It can also play an important role in cultural traditions and economic development, making it a key force in defining societies and communities. Sharing and eating meals is a universal experience that can foster connections and a sense of belonging. Because it can bridge differences, food can be seen as a unifying force in society.
Even at Trinity College, students visit either the Buttery or Strachan Dining Hall to eat, recharge, and most importantly, socialize. When students eat together, it is not uncommon for discussions about food quality and dining halls to arise. Debates amongst students about which dining hall is superior—Strachan or the Buttery—are part of the college experience. We surveyed Trinity students to get their opinions on both dining halls—the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Trinity College’s main dining hall, Strachan, was added to Trinity College in 1941. Strachan Hall, with its oak paneling and hammer-beamed trussed roof of British Columbia cedar, has enthralled thousands of Trinity College students, faculty, and visitors. Since its addition in 1941, Strachan has been the hub of college social life. Several Trinity students remarked on Strachan’s historic beauty. First-year Trinity students Nicole Ling and Alonso Muñoz praised Strachan’s stunning architecture and ambience for uniting students from different groups to eat together and for making eating food a “cool” experience. A few students, such as Pratibha Thakur and Shonita Srinivasan, remarked that one of Strachan’s best qualities is the availability of hot meals with a decent amount of flavor. On a good day, Strachan food can be exceptional and far exceed all expectations, but more frequently than not, they fall short of those standards. Kashish Mittal was in agreement, explaining that the dining hall could “surprise you in either a good or bad way.” One student described how the food at Strachan could be hit or miss. She said that every day, she first browses the options in Strachan before deciding whether to eat in the dining hall or at the Buttery, and most days, she chooses the latter. Speculations of food poisoning and undercooked meat from Strachan food frustrated many students as well. Students rated the vegan and vegetarian options offered by Strachan as “terrible” and “not enough.” Shonita Srinivasan explained that protein intake is very limited for students with dietary restrictions and that a “salad or wrap cannot be enough.”
The Buttery, a cafeteria and lounge housed in the Gerald Larkin Building, serves as Trinity students’ second dining option and is a favorite gathering place for commuters in particular. The cafeteria is regarded as being more “consistent” and “convenient,” consistent in that the food and beverage options remain the same and convenient in that students have the choice of packaged snacks, sandwiches, and wraps that can be taken to-go between classes. Rebeca Alarcón, a second-year Trinity student, revealed that the Buttery is her go-to because of how quickly orders are filled and how sandwiches, wraps, salads, smoothies, and other items can be personalized. Even though the Buttery is commented to be more convenient than Strachan, many students pointed out that the Buttery frequently runs out of certain food much quicker. When it comes to smoothies, Pratibha stated that the Buttery does not always have fruits on hand, such as her personal favorite, mangoes. Alyssa Ukani discussed how the selection feels quite limited, especially when “you’re trying to eat healthier.”
While some students were on Team Buttery and others on Team Strachan, one topic that all students surveyed had agreed upon was the closing times of both dining halls. Every day of the week, Strachan closes at 8 p.m., with the Buttery closing at 8 p.m. on weekdays and at 6 p.m. on weekends. Students at university frequently work past midnight, with many having very late classes, some finishing by 9 or even 10 p.m. By the time they return to Trinity, both dining halls have closed. In such cases, some students report that they simply go to bed hungry if they don’t have any snacks in their room or that they order from outside. One student admitted that some days are so packed with classes that she has to order food when she returns to Trinity because she can’t get to the dining hall for lunch or dinner. Trinity students proposed their own solutions to the problems caused by early closing times. Alonso was taken aback when he found out that dinner in Strachan begins as early as 4 p.m. He suggested starting dinner an hour later, at 5 p.m., so that dinner service could end an hour later. Alyssa Ukani suggested installing vending machines with snacks and options in Trinity and St. Hilda Residences, similar to the Buttery, so that students don’t have to order food from outside after the dining halls close.
While there was no clear winner between Strachan and the Buttery, Trinity students remain enthusiastic about food and will continue to advocate for the improvement of Trinity College food services.