Dining Hall Etiquette 101

Tristan Axelrod

Considering that roughly 2000 people live and eat together here at Middlebury, I would say that the dining halls are run remarkably well. Especially compared to other schools, which for the most part employ companies such as Marriot and Halliburton to cater food on a daily basis, Middlebury provides very high quality meals that accommodate everybody, including vegetarians, athletes, those of us with dietary restrictions, and even the many picky eaters. Although budget cuts have led to an indisputable decrease in quality over the past few years, one has a hard time making the case that Middlebury students are ill-treated. It would behoove us to appreciate our fortune with grace and consideration for each other and those employed to serve us. Here a few problematic issues on which we might improve.

1) Whining. While Middlebury is certainly expensive, our flat rate tuition guarantees more food than almost any other institution in the country. There is a process for registering complaints—the forms at every dining hall entrance—and the dining hall staff are extremely thoughtful and thorough with their responses to all inquiries, complaints, and compliments. Let’s not contribute to the general inanity of student publications by expounding about the lack of juice at dinner.

2) Stealing dishes. I used to wonder who it was that was stealing all the dishes: I was mystified by all the emails and discussion because I couldn’t understand why people would be so inconsiderate. Then earlier this year, living in Forest, I finally saw it: people carrying their Ross dishes to their room, eating by themselves, and leaving the dishes in the bathroom or, far worse, in the stairwell. Why would you do that? You took it, you bring it back. We’re costing the college tens of thousands of dollars every year because we’re lazy assholes. Seriously?

3) Improper use of serving utensils. Serving spoons, ladles, knives, etc. are for one use: transferring food from a large dish to a small one. There are two common misuses of serving utensils that we see all the time.
• The first is spreading or smoothing with a serving knife, e.g. cream cheese, mashed potatoes, etc. When you spread your cream cheese with the serving knife, you force everyone else to wait for you (especially if you stand in front of the bar so nobody can reach the peanut butter, jam, etc.), and you get crumbs all over the knife and, immediately afterwards, the cream cheese bin. This is unsanitary (not to mention unsightly), so the knife has to be cleaned and replaced. If instead you were to scoop some cream cheese on the side of your plate while you wait for your bagel to toast, you could then spread it at the right time (with your own knife) without inconveniencing anyone.
• The second misuse is picking out just the food you want from a large dish. If you don’t want the cherry tomatoes, pick them out with your fork after serving them. You save everyone in line the infuriation of standing hungrily and watching as you perpetrate your pickiness on them, waiting for their portion of a salad now disproportionately loaded with cherry tomatoes. Or, in the opposite case, you could save us from a bowl of wings minus the drumsticks, stir-fry without the chicken, etc. You also spare the cooking staff the insult of your disgust.

4) Lining up at the beverage trough. There is nothing more aggravating than waiting for water while someone loads three nalgenes with pepsi because they’re too cheap and lazy to pay $1.29 for a 2-liter bottle at Shaw’s. Or waiting five minutes for barbeque wings only to watch the last 24 of them disappear onto the plate of the guy in front of you. It’s inconsiderate, not to mention disgusting and usually unhealthy. If only one dish in the entire dining hall appeals to you, chances are you aren’t the only one for whom this is the case, so save some for everyone else. You could even try a strange new dish, try another dining hall, and/or politely inform the staff of your affinity for the wings (or whatever) and displeasure with other dishes.

5) Inappropriate social behavior. We don’t need yet another ‘dining halls are segregated, we should all smile at each other and sit with random strangers all the time’ article; for the most part those are complete crap and we all know it. However, there’s something to be said for being polite to others: more specifically, being kind and considerate to other students and to staff. In the case of the latter, we need to be aware of the difficulties and complexities of working at a dining hall—serving students with varying needs, financial and cultural backgrounds, odd hours, and let’s not forget the obvious class-cultural issues between staff and students—and respect both the efforts of the staff and their appreciation of feedback. As far as students go, there are a number of simple social rules that require more thought in a dining hall situation: respecting personal space and food preferences (i.e. keeping room in the line and not commenting on food choices) and respecting privacy (i.e. not hitting on others or loudly discussing one’s sexual exploits), for starters.

In general, the dining hall experience could be more positive for everyone at the college if we all just take the time to think about our actions and show more concern for staff and students.

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1 Response to “Dining Hall Etiquette 101”


  1. 1 Foster Chapple May 27, 2016 at 6:00 am

    Grade 1 students should be assigned 10 minutes of homework. BEHAVIOR – Does your loved one seem anxious or irritable. You do not need a lot of capital to start with, you can work this from home, you don’t need to buy or rent premises, you don’t need to buy or stock huge amounts of product, and you don’t need any previous business experience.


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