A guide to navigating Vassar’s culinary landscape

The familiar sight of the Deece salad bar, unripe for consumption. Raw vegetables don’t have to stay that way and can be prepared yourself at the stir-fry station; just fry them in a little oil./ Courtesy of The Miscellany News

Puzzle: Sometimes the smell emitting from the building is pungent even meters away. Often, depending on that day’s delicacy, the odour intensifies upon entry and clings to your clothes. You enter and the lights flash at you like a spaceship. Your eyelids furiously blink to adjust to the brightness. The wave of noise hits you. What am I talking about? You’ve probably guessed it: the Deece.

Navigating the Deece is difficult, strenuous and stressful. I would like to lead you through a series of food hacks, both to increase your enjoyment of the culinary facilities and the nutritional benefit of the sustenance you consume.

1. No, you don’t have to be sensitive to allergens to eat at Oasis. Also, they stock delicious non-dairy yogurts in the fridge. If you ask a staff member, you will be presented with yogurt flavors as varied as blueberry or coconut. There is also a small sign detailing what else is available.

2. Now, I have seen people using the self-cook stations, so this is not so much a hack as a reminder. You can make some basic recipes with ingredients obtained from the salad bar, such as scrambled chickpeas or crispy tofu. There is a small collection of herbs, spices and oils. If you want to be in charge of your meal and see exactly what goes in it (as well as how much oil), the self-cook station is an excellent avenue to explore. The sight of raw broccoli, more specifically the pieces that festoon the salad bar, do little to tantalise my taste buds. However, Kendall Jenner once told us to eat our vegetables, and who are we to disagree? I’m sure we can all agree that there are some vegetables that shouldn’t be eaten raw. So fire up that hot plate and get stir-frying.

3. Don’t sleep on the Kosher soups. They are divine. They can be distinguished, by a sensitive or even a brute culinary palette, from the soups offered by the sandwich section. The lentil soup and the wild rice soup remain two of my favorites.

4. Sushi bowls. Okay, okay, so this isn’t exactly glaring news to any Vassar student with two eyes and taste buds. However, eating solely with meal swipes and never entering the Deece is also an option for those of you with strong opinions about the food on offer. The crispy tofu and kimchi bowls are tasty and filling. An excellent choice!

5. Be nice to the staff. Be nice because you are, I hope, a fairly nice person and recognize the taxing nature of their jobs. If you are nice they will be more inclined to be nice back. For example, if you are a non–meat eater and the previous occupant of the pan you now wish to fill with tofu was chicken, kindly ask them to switch pans and it is likely they will oblige.

6. Tasty Tuesdays. I have two words for you people: Love Fest.

7. Fruit, glorious fruit. So of course you could pick up two pieces of fruit at Express, but there are very few people who select both their side options as fruit. However, remember that the meal plan gives us unlimited access to the Deece. Very few people truly take advantage of that. It’s expensive enough without occasionally buying breakfast at the Retreat or snacking at the vending machines when you can’t be bothered to leave your dorm. Embrace the Deece! Walking into that vast building for a single bowl of pineapple or a slice of toast need not be a source of awkwardness. There is plenty of space upstairs and it is often empty. Take a book up there and eat your melon in peace. Alternately, make a habit of stocking up on fruit when you visit so you always have a free supply of apples in your room. Not only is it good for you, but eating more fruit at the Deece at whatever time of the day you like is cheaper than getting another packet of chips from the vending machine.

8. Now, I have already briefly mentioned the upstairs space of the Deece. Not only a second but also a third floor awaits you. Grab a book and make yourself comfortable, as you make your way sporadically downstairs to forage for snacks.

9. On the subject of feeling peckish, the gluten-free fridge often stocks cereal bars and packaged snacks that are perfect to grab in a hurry.

10. Drink more tea. Who else has seen that fancy wooden tea box they introduced? Unlike some of the water from the fountains in the dorms, which can often border on the cloudy, the Deece appears to filter its water. Make the most of this and drink up! Green tea aids digestion too, so if you’ve stuffed yourself with fries and then immediately regret it, you know what to do.

11. Make the most of what you have. The Deece is what you make of it! Since adopting this attitude, I have been more creative with my meal choices and now enjoy the time I spend there (and what enters my gob) much more than before.

12. On a similar note of financial sagacity rather than culinary creativity, remember that your meal plan has already been paid for. A friend of mine alleged to have calculated the cost of the meal plan per day; the sum was around thirty dollars. If you eat less than this amount of food you are wasting money. If you eat more, you are getting your money’s worth. Of course, habitually stuffing yourself is never a good idea. However, sneaking the odd food item into your backpack to be consumed at a later date always is.

Armed with your new-found knowledge and incitement to enjoyment, please venture into the culinary landscape of Vassar armed not with Tums but with a knife and fork. This is how it should be! The Features Section’s new slogan is “Make the Deece Delicious.” The power is in your hands.

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