While Cornell is currently known as a place “where any person can find instruction in any study,” people may soon know it as a place “where any person can find satisfaction in any (food-related) craving.”
Foodie website The Daily Meal recently created a list of the 52 Best Colleges for Food in America and ranked Cornell as number five. To determine the rankings, The Daily Meal graded each college on six categories: healthy food, events, local, sustainable, accessibility and service and the “X Factor”, the last of which they defined as “something that made [their] jaws drop.”
Did the Daily Meal get it right? Here's a look at how Cornell stacks up in each category:
Healthy Food: Cornell does a pretty good job of providing healthy food options. When you look at a dining hall’s menu online, any dish marked with an Eating Well apple graphic is trans-fat-free, 100 percent whole grain, lower in fat, sugar and salt. Even a la carte places offer healthy options, from Martha’s flatbread salads to the make-your-own sandwich stations at places like Cascadeli and Trillium. However, I think Cornell could strive to make more healthy, protein-based dishes; it’s too easy to place an Eating Well apple graphic by the more vegetable-based dishes.
Events: One aspect of Cornell Dining that The Daily Meal praised was our variety of special dining events. The Daily Meal loved Risley’s springtime “A Night at Hogwarts,” but I personally prefer the events that feature cuisines from around the world. (And by “around the world,” I mean cuisines other than your typical pseudo-Italian, Chinese and Mexican fare.) For example, Latin American Heritage Dinners, a two-week dining event, are currently taking place around campus.
Local and Sustainable: The great part about going to a college in a food-loving place like Ithaca is our access to locally grown and sustainable food. Cornell often uses special dining events to highlight seasonal crops, like the recent Mushroom Mania and to showcase cuisine from local restaurants, such as The Piggery.
Accessibility and Service: You’d have to work pretty hard to not come across a place to eat at Cornell. With over 30 dining options throughout campus, students can easily fulfill their cravings in a matter of minutes. However, Central Campus could definitely use more late-night options; our only dining hall closes at 7:30 p.m. and our hot food options are limited to Ivy Room and Mac’s.
The X Factor: I think this factor varies from person to person. For me, the X Factor is that Cornell Dining incorporates both routine and special dishes into its offerings. Of course, if you’re a dining hall regular, you know to expect breakfast for dinner at Okenshield’s on Mondays or dim sum at Cook for Sunday brunch. However, no matter what day it is, you can almost always find a dish at a dining hall or an a la carte location that’s just a little bit different.
Room for Improvement: While Cornell’s number five ranking of the 52 Best Colleges for Food in America is admirable, it definitely doesn’t mean that we can’t improve in some areas. For me, there are two areas in which we could improve: offering more from-scratch desserts and making dining an “experience” as we claim to do. I know dining halls have to rely on shortcuts to feed hundreds of students efficiently. But for me, nothing reminds me more of home than freshly baked goods.
I also think Cornell Dining should work on making dining more of an “experience.” For instance, I appreciate that some West dining halls use house dinners to introduce students to different cuisines, but, if they want to immerse us in the cultures that these cuisines come from, there should be more than just decorative flag napkins. One option would be to have brief presentations on the cuisines and cultures that a dining hall or event is featuring.
Cornell’s high ranking on the list is nice for two reasons. First, it’s a great reminder that, despite our complaints about various shortcomings of Cornell Dining, we have it pretty good compared to a lot of other colleges. And second, this is one of the few lists where Cornell beats out every other Ivy League school. People may mock us as being at the “safety school” of the Ivies, but hey, at least we’re the best fed students.