Join me on a regular day for a regular lunch at Lawrence University. I walk into Andrew Commons and Carolyn swipes me in. I have 78 swipes to last me to the end of the term. It is after 11 a.m. but before 2 p.m. Immediately ahead of me, I see the vegan-vegetarian options consisting of a chunky sweet potato bisque, Catalan chickpeas with spinach, cinnamon scented (scented?) couscous with dates and roasted artichokes with cauliflower. I pass on all of these options because none of them appeal to my delicate palate. Eat at Ed’s lunch is next and they are serving a tuna noodle casserole, brown rice pilaf with wilted kale and lemon and garlic roasted brussels sprouts. I would have enjoyed the sprouts, but as usual, they are overcooked and resemble rotten grapes. I continue to Rich’s Grill which features an avocado and tomato white cheddar quesadilla, achiote braised pinto beans and roasted zucchini and yellow squash. These all are just as unappetizing as the the first options. The regular grill offers me the standard dry marinated chicken breast, French fries, house-made black bean burger, Ney’s Big Sky beef hamburger and andouille sausage. These are too basic to settle on. Moving on from there, I reach Andrew’s Global Market and their many rice options, including steamed long grain rice, steamed brown rice and Thai sticky rice. They also have Vietnamese turkey larb lettuce wraps, tofu wraps and the typical garnishes of Thai basil, Thai chili powder, mint leaves and cilantro. I yawn and move on. Andrew’s Global Mercado, which ostensibly means the same thing as the previous station, is serving a green pork chili, which is not at all authentic to the famed Hatch green chile stew, as anyone familiar with the southwest can tell you. Besides this, there is ancho chili and pineapple braised chicken, coconut rice and jalapeno simmered red beans. Disgusted at the green pork “chili,” I move on to Jim’s Italian Pies, which are neither pies nor Italian. There is a three-cheese pizza, Italian sausage pizza, pizza made without gluten upon request please allow 8-10 minutes for preparation and a white pizza. Next door is pasta with classic alfredo sauce, roasted zucchini and yellow squash (again), roasted spaghetti squash, pasta made without gluten upon request please allow 8-10 minutes for preparation and vegan marinara. I go back around to the agua fresca and see the increasingly suspicious concoctions, this time being cantaloupe mint and cherry ginger. I wander past all the basics – the steamed veggies, the deli meats, the salad bar, the miso bar, the breakfast nook and even through to the fruits and desserts, yet I feel something is missing. I have yet to put an item of food on my plate, not only because I am not impressed by the mediocre selections, but because Bon Appetit catering is consistently shafting all Lawrentians in their refusal to give us the one thing we are missing: berries.
The one thing I want that Lawrence University Andrew Commons never has is berries. Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries are all missing from the typical Lawrentian’s diet because they are suspiciously absent from mealtimes. Could Bon Appetit be trying to induce mass bouts of scurvy upon its customers, or are berries just too “expensive” to get at Lawrence? After much research and deliberation, I can settle upon the former, because there is no way Lawrence can afford to serve Catalan chickpeas with spinach and ten different kinds of rice (white rice, brown rice, coconut rice, Thai sticky rice, rice porridge, etc) yet cannot afford a simple fruit staple. Instead, we are forced to dine on musk melon and honeydew, both of which have especially suspicious textures during this time of year. I am literally feeding garbage – literal trash – to myself because nothing at Andrew Commons sufficiently meets both my taste as well as nutritional needs, and therefore, I may as well treat my body like a trash can. However, if berries were made available on the regular in Andrew Commons, my quality of life would go up drastically. I would lose weight, build a healthier muscle mass, stay alert, maintain a higher level of cognitive function and so many more benefits all stemming from the addition of berries to the Lawrentian diet.
I will tell you of a time not too long ago in Andrew Commons where a glitch in the system happened: one day, Jim’s pizza was scratched entirely and held an ice cream bar. At this ice cream bar, special toppings were made available to the diners. One of these was blueberries. I remember the square-ish metal bowls filled to the brim with beautiful, plump little angelic bluets. My heart sang and I grabbed a bowl from the soup station in order to claim my fair share of blueberries. I filled my bowl up and was happy for the next 15 minutes. In those 15 minutes, I got up and topped off my blueberry stash at least three times. I could practically feel my body turning blue and my skin beginning to pale due to sheer amount of antioxidants I consumed in such a short time. This was one of the best days in my life. I would love to experience more of these amazing days and if the only way to achieve this is to ditch the cinnamon-scented couscous and the agua fresca, then so be it. I would rather have berries any day.