There are a lot of options in first year residence dining. You could go for the salad bar, grab a burger and fries, or pour yourself a hearty cup of soup. With all those food stations, it can be hard to choose what you want. There are so many possibilities, after all.
I was faced with this dilemma many times throughout my first year living in Orchard Commons. Every day I stepped into the entrance of Open Kitchen, and every day I was confronted with all of these food options. How did I respond? The safe way. The most comfortable way. I had a list of four or five meal options that I knew I liked, and those meals were what I stuck with for almost every meal.
You’ll probably hear someone call the residence meal plan repetitive or restrictive at some point during your first year.
They are wrong.
It’s only repetitive or restrictive if you eat the same things every day. The biggest mistake I made in my first year was not broadening my horizons and trying new food options that I would have never tried back home. The options were there, I just needed to choose them.
What is the Choice Paradox?
After watching a YouTube video last fall on the concept of being overwhelmed by choice, or analysis paralysis, I immediately thought of my first year dining experience. I finally had words to describe my indecision and why I always fell back on the most familiar food options.
You may be wondering...what even is the choice paradox? The idea is that having too many choices available will lead to indecision. Or in my case, too many choices will lead to me getting chicken strips for the fourth time in a week. Psychologist Barry Schwartz has a good TED Talk on “the paradox of choice.”
But isn’t it a good thing to have a lot of options? It absolutely is. What matters is how you respond to the choice you face. Embrace the amount of food options you have. Don’t be afraid to try new things. Residence dining rooms are the best places to do that.
Avoid doing what I did in my first year. Seriously, you’ll thank me later.
Escaping Your Food Comfort Zone
Sure, trying out new foods is great, but how do you actually take the steps to do it?
1. Decide what you're getting before
UBC Food Services has this really great service called Nutrislice where you can look up almost everything on the menu that day at your dining room. You can see what foods are at which stations, look up the ingredients, and sometimes there will be pictures of what the meal will look like. Checking out Nutrislice before you head over to the dining room can help you set your sights on your new food choice.
2. Ask for small menu changes
Want to try the burrito bowl at Feast but you have a passionate hatred for cabbage? Whether it’s because of a food allergy or you just really don’t like a certain ingredient, if you ask the chef to take out an ingredient, they will typically accommodate your request. It never hurts to ask!
3. Try out other residence dining rooms
Let’s face it: Gather is a pretty far walk from Feast and Open Kitchen. And after a long day of classes, that walk will be the last thing you want to do. I made this excuse so many times during my first year. If you don’t stray from your own residence dining room, you won’t get to try options the other dining rooms offer. And take it from me, that walk to Gather is so worth it for the Havana Bowl. Who knows? Maybe you’ll find your new favourite meal.
4. Enlist some friends to try new things with
Anything that is new and unfamiliar is always less daunting with a friend by your side. Did you notice there’s a Chef Pop-Up tomorrow on @ubcfoodie’s story? Message your friends and make a date out of it!
5. It's okay to not like something
Lastly, always remember that it’s okay to try something and not like it. With so many options in residence dining, you’re probably not going to like everything. What matters is you tried it! And don’t let a disappointing experience discourage you from straying out of your food comfort zone.
There’s a lot to choose from in residence dining. You’re only there until April, and it will go by so fast. There are so many different food options from all around the world! It would be a shame to not try as much as you can. As delicious as chicken strips are, there are other foods out there. Go out and try them!