The dining hall is one of my favorite places on campus. I remember the first meal on the evening of my arrival at Grinnell. The sheer size of the hall, the large number of dishes on offer, and the bustling atmosphere overwhelmed me so much, I barely managed to get myself a bowl of noodles before rushing to sit with my newly-found first-year friends.
The food is the first thing you see when you enter. There are so many options: pizza, pasta, hamburgers, salad, vegan dishes, sandwiches, stir-fry, or even a waffle. Of course, the initial excitement of the food wears off with time, and now I regularly walk around the dining hall wondering why there’s nothing to eat. But there are also days when I can’t wait to get there because they’re serving my favorite salad or my favorite chicken dish.
Some of my best memories took place in the dining hall. My first campus job was washing dishes. I had never washed dishes on such a scale before, with hundreds and hundreds of dishes coming through on a conveyor belt. My fellow dish line workers and I would scramble to get a stray plate here, a glass there. The job helped me make two great friends with whom I would eat lunch before we all started our shifts. We still regularly eat meals together. The dining hall was also where I met my second-year roommate, when we happened to sit at the same table and got to talking, just by chance. The dining hall can actually be a great place to make new friends.
The dining hall is emblematic of the accepting culture of Grinnell. The ladies at the entrance swiping your P-card always give you a big smile and ask how your day is going. If you’re in a social mood, you can eat in the big front area. If you’re feeling a bit quiet and want to chat privately with a friend, there are the booths at the back. Or if you just want to eat alone, there are tiny tables perfect for a meal with that homework reading you have to catch up on. I often go to the dining hall even if I’m not very hungry, because it offers more than just food — it offers friends and acquaintances and all round, a really Grinnellian atmosphere.
Gayatri Jayal ’11 is an English major from New Delhi, India.