How to Survive the Brightvale University Dining Hall
Dear Brightvale University freshman,
You are about to embark on an educational journey. It is one that I, Haibara, assure you will be worth all of the stress and trouble. Brightvale University (also known as BVU) is a beautiful school, one full of stained glass dreams and a library boasting twice the size of King Skarl's castle. But before you pick up those (very heavy) textbooks, there is something you should know: beware the dining hall.
I know what you want to say. "But the food was so great when I visited the University!" Indeed it was. Unfortunately, my innocent future colleague, that was a ploy. You'll find by year two that the best time to eat on campus is when visitors are around. Really. Sorry to say this, but even the most impressive of universities will have their weak sides. BVU is famous for its knowledgeable staff and endless stacks of books, but world-famous professors and well-written literature come at a steep price. Good food is low on their priority list.
For anyone living on campus, your eating options are limited to the dining hall, leftovers, or anything you can stuff in a fridge from home. There are fruit markets around, but they're mostly on the outskirts of the city, far from the university. Commuting is an option, but unless you're fortunate enough to live in Brightvale, it can be difficult to make the trip—especially while carrying a heavy book bag. I know of a few Neopians who have that sort of stamina, but I'm not one of them. The majority of us here live in dorms. For those Neopians (and I am one of them!) who have to eat dining hall food, consult this safety guide first.
First off, let's start with some of the no list:
Mystery Meat Sandwich: Just the name alone should set off some red flags. For one, it's an import item from the Haunted Woods. You know, the place with all of that spooky, dangerous stuff. I'm a Draik of science first and foremost, and have spent countless hours trying to figure out what the ingredients are in this sandwich. Let's just say... you probably don't want to know.
Don't let its normal appearance fool you! Only once—by accident—did I have the displeasure of putting this thing into my mouth. I could feel something wriggling on my tongue on impact. It spoke to me.
Without going into more detail, I'll leave it at this: don't eat it. If you come to the dining hall late and only these sandwiches remain... well, your friends have food in their fridges, right? If not them, how about the Shoyru who lives in the dorm next door? That acquaintance from your Sociology of Meridell class? The guy you kind of know from that thing?!
Let the mutant students enjoy these foul manifestations of culinary butchery. They're pretty much the only ones I know who like the stuff! Oh, but wait. Don't get me wrong! I have nothing against mutant students—even the one I used to room with—really! A few of my good friends are mutants. We just... don't always eat together at lunch, that's all. I'm not sure my stomach could handle it.
Actually, wait. Some of the Halloween students pick it up as well. I've overheard their conversations with the mumbling sandwich and seen them poke at the meat with a fork, teasing it. Don't ask me why. Odder things have happened here.
Unfortunately, the dining hall staff caught me taking pictures of the food and forbade me from capturing any other shots. Here instead is a picture of what goes into the brew:
Knowledge and Honor. I know what you are thinking, that this is a clever play on words or some sort of vegetable stew with the book's title as a name. I wish either of those were correct. What's the main ingredient in this soup, you ask? Well, I'll put it this way. After a flame test, the soup blackened into a charred paste. From these results, I can infer that the meat of the stew... is paper. Like, paper from that book. It makes sense, I suppose, since a sign placed below the Knowledge and Honor Stew proudly proclaims that it is "high in fiber." As far as I know, the University booksellers bought ten-thousand copies three years ago. Guess that's one way to use them.
As a freshman, an upperclassmen switched out my Extra Creamy Soup with the college's special dish. Needless to say I was in for quite a surprise. Some of my classmates swear by it, saying that they eat a bowl right before every test. They claim it makes them more knowledgeable and helps maintain their class averages. Whether or not the stew actually does anything to improve their performance, well, results are inconclusive at best.
To give you a quick description of its consistency, imagine chewing on grass. Wet grass. Add a sensation of sliminess and couple it with a sprinkle of paprika and you have a scholar's lunch (but not really).
Symol Dirt Pie:
If you're looking for a savory dessert to finish your meal, choose carefully. Even though this cake may look delectable (as they often cover the top layer with a thin coating of chocolate frosting) it's far from delicious. Ever eat top soil? After tireless efforts in the lab, I can conclude without a doubt that this pie is made from materials found in the campus gardens.
Okay, so perhaps I'm biased. Some of my woodland painted friends really seem to like this pie. They say it has a good, earthly quality that is rarely seen in cafeteria food. Excluding pets with a close tie to nature, however, it's definitely a dish you want to avoid. And if that doesn't sway you from eating it, this might: worms. In almost every slice that I've seen, live worms squirm about, angrily revolting against the forks and spoons that come their way.
If anything good can be said about this dish, well, at least it honors a local Petpet. Symols frequent the gardens (much to the dismay of campus facilities staff members). Do yourself a favor and enjoy Symol-watching (and subsequent angry-college-staff-watching) instead of sinking your teeth into this dessert. You'll thank me.
Before you consider grabbing a glass of Clamade, answer this question: why would you want to?
The clam is alive. Often times it is bubbling away, expressing its anger through inaudible hisses at the indignity of being locked away in a glass of water. Try to chug down this salty, fishy juice and you're likely to have a clam clamping on your lips. Or tongue. Both have happened before.
Here's a good time to mention that the Alien Aishas are fervent supporters of BVU's Biology and Chemistry programs. Rumor has it that they worked out a deal where their products are sold in the campus dining hall. In return, they donate a rather large sum of Neopoints that most of us assume is brought in by nerkmid machine profits. No wonder our lab equipment looks so futuristic and spacey...
Anyway, if you see this juice around, avoid it. Actually, for that matter, avoid all Alien Aisha food. Seriously. Practically the only students who eat them are those on a dare or—you guessed it—mutant students. They really do eat the oddest stuff. (Again, meaning no offense to my friends or future colleagues. To be fair, they look disgusted whenever I eat a bologna and cheese sandwich).
I'm sure you've had your fill of the "no" list. Here now are a couple of items that I recommend:
Veggie Deluxe Stuffed Pepper:
It's rather rare you'll see this dish available. It is seasonal and requires local farmers to be growing the ingredients, but take one bite and you'll agree: it's worth the wait.
Alright, so perhaps the portabella mushrooms are often a little overcooked, giving them a sort of rubbery texture. Everything else is usually juicy. Little of the flavor from the peas and carrots blends into the mushrooms, potatoes, or marrow. The ingredients stand alone enough that your tongue (or scientific equipment) can pick up on the individual tastes but even then, the mixture of the flavors is just enough to make it savory. The peppers they choose locally grown and you can taste the difference. Warm, peppery goodness will flood your mouth on impact. One bite and you'll swear that you were on Old Farmer Jenkin's farm! Even better, looking at all of the health benefits, this is a win.
Containing lots and lots of vitamin C, red peppers have some of the highest concentrations known in Neopian vegetables. This is only topped by the marrow, which has an astoundingly high concentration of the vitamin—almost double of the red pepper!
It should go without saying that a diet filled with healthy foods is good for you. When you are a student, eating well is pretty much the only way you're going to make it through the semester without burning out. That and sleeping, but who has time for that anymore, anyway?
Extra Creamy Soup:
Affectionately known as the "Everything but the Kitchen Sink Stew" by upperclassmen, this soup is a staple in the day-to-day diet of many of our students. Don't expect to taste the same brew each time. Often the chef, shall we say, "experiments" with different items. Most of the time the mixtures work well, but other times, well... remember when I said you don't want to know what you're eating? Best leave it at that.
The most standard recipe (although the head chef tends to have more of one vegetable than another on any given day) is a hearty bowl of potatoes, leek, and Kau Kau Farms creamer; you'll often see peas, corn, and various other vegetables and fruits floating about in the broth as well. If you'd like to give the soup a more personal touch, add some crackers or even some salad fixings. Some of the best stuff seen in the dining hall was made through experimentation. Such a method, as a Draik of science, I approve of wholeheartedly.
Braku Berry Juice:
As soon as this juice is put out—often in small cups—it flies off the serving tables. This is often a seasonal item, one that will not be seen much past mid-autumn. There are a few farmers—alumni of the college, if I understand correctly—who sell braku berries at a low price to the university. They crush these berries into a super sweet liquid reminiscent of ripe watermelons splashed with a hint of cucumber aftertaste. Once the juice is made, it is shipped to BVU in small quantities every year.
Needless to say, this is something you have to come to the dining hall early to obtain. Some of the upperclassmen will grab five or six cups and add it to their water bottles to be enjoyed for later consumption. Although I don't necessarily condone this behavior as it leaves less for your fellow colleagues, it is a good way to make it through a three-hour chemistry lab. Not that, ah, I'd be eating or drinking during a laboratory class or anything.
Brightvale Berry Pudding:
Before you start salivating too much, realize this is college food, so don't expect top-of-the-line gourmet. That being said, this dessert is a delight. I know, I know, it might not look terribly appealing, but looks can be deceiving—in this case. There are rumors that the King's chef sold a modified recipe of this treat to the university dining staff. Despite the fact that the ingredients are obviously cheaper than their gourmet counterparts (as my analyses have shown the sugar they use to be rather... low grade) it still has a good kick.
The Brightvale Berry itself is a sweet, chewy fruit. The green spots, which are naturally seen in ripe berries, are surprisingly tangy. This can lend to an interesting blend of flavors when it is mixed with lemon custard and topped with vanilla icing. Sometimes during University spirit days, they'll garnish the top with a sugar star shaped like the Brightvale flag.
Above constitutes the best and worst the college has to offer, but there are general tips I can provide to better your dining hall experience.
1) If you can make your own food, do so. The University provides all kinds of meats, cheeses; condiments, jams; and vegetable slices with which you can make your own sandwiches.
2) There is a basic stovetop where one can wok up their meals, Shenkuu style. For some creative cooking insights, consult "Flotsam Wok Recipes," a master list of some easy wok meals straight from the Flotsam Chef himself!
3) When in doubt, drink water. There is a large supply of filtered water that is brought into the University daily. Rarely if ever have I found it to be odd-tasting or stale.
4) Ask an upperclassmen. Not sure if you should sink your teeth into that mystery dish? We'd be happy to advise you.
5) I can't advise you enough to avoid anything made by the Alien Aishas. Well, unless you want to miss class, but I'd never condone that. Especially not for an analytical chemistry lecture or something.
6) If you want to use the salad bar, do so as they put the vegetables out. Neopian vegetables are notorious for their short shelf life, especially around these parts. Blame the soil, I say.
7) Arrive early! Once the meal rush begins, lines can become really long (a surprise, I know).
8) During breakfast time, ask the chef to make you some pancakes to order. He often does a good job with the preparations and will even shape them like your face! It's a form of flattery, I've been told.
If you ever have any other questions, feel free to consult anyone who looks like they know their stuff around the university dining hall. And remember, no matter how debatable the food can be, an amazing meal is not the reason you came here. Brightvale University has wonderful programs, friendly students, and beautiful facilities. Try to keep all of this in mind when you are making it through each and every meal.
Most importantly, enjoy the ride. Through good times and bad times it'll prove to be quite a roller coaster—but I promise you, once it's gone, you'll miss it. I know I will.
Haibara-chan, Senior Food Chemistry Major, BVU Class of 2015