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The Scarlet & Black

Maniacal Mistry gets groovy with gastronomy

Every day in the Dining Hall is a new adventure, an exploration of different flavors, whether deep and bold or delicate and subtle. Exploring different combinations of ingredients may lead to dishes that are unpalatable, but many enhance a meal to levels unobtainable by taking exactly what is offered. To create something unique and to eat something you have put some thought and feeling into is incredibly satisfying. The thrill of accomplishment you feel when you hit that perfect combination of flavors is simply exhilarating. Today, we’ll explore the process that drives experimentation and see the results of a few of my favorite concoctions.

Knowing the menu is key to creating an amazing dish. Knowing exactly what the dining hall has ready to offer is akin to an artist knowing what mediums are available for use. In order to become the food artist you want to be, take note of which items are constantly available, and which ones you need to wait for on specific days. Examine the spice rack and try out which ones you enjoy. Due to the menu repeating, certain dishes are always together, which allows for some superb combinations. For instance, try figuring out a stir-fry special that complements a certain type of bread, or that would work well in a wrap. Desserts work this way as well; as soon as I see apple pie or crisp on the menu, I know I’m going to be topping it with some vanilla ice cream, caramel, and a sprinkling of spice rack cinnamon. 

Planning out these different dishes may take some time initially, but once you have made a few favorites multiple times, you’ll be making a home-made meal in less time than standing in line for the special. One of my favorite fallbacks involves a custom-made pasta. The initial experimenting took about 15 minutes, but after repeated efforts, it now takes me less than five, even on a busy day. Step one involves getting a plate of plain pasta, or perhaps pasta with marinara sauce. Next, I shake some parmesan cheese and grate some pepper on it. To add some variety via vegetables, I swing by both the salad bar and stir-fry and load up. The salad bar also has some cheddar or mozzarella cheeses to melt on to your pasta. Finally, mix your ingredients well, step up to the microwave, and heat it for about 40 seconds. In almost no time and with almost no waiting in line, you have a healthy, filling, unique pasta. If pasta does not sound appealing, change it out for some rice and beans courtesy of the vegan bar and you have a delicious bowl of great food. 

In short, the Dining Hall is an incredible resource for experimenting. There are dozens of ingredients you can combine to form a delectable meal. The possibilities are endless. You can add veggies, spices, and more cheese for some enhanced pizza. Craving a delicious burger? Take the standard burger, get some toppings from the sandwich bar (I opt for pepper jack cheese and an extra slice of turkey) and from the salad bar. (I enjoy adding some vegetables, hard-boiled eggs, and some Dorothy Lynch salad dressing as my sauce.) Ketchup and fries making you bored? Season your fries using the spice rack and make a unique sauce by combining others. A sauce I love to make involves ketchup, barbecue sauce, Tabasco, a touch of mayo, and a few drop of fresh squeezed lemon. It gives quite a kick, and the flavors layer nicely with each other. 

As your next meal rolls around, try to create at least one new or modified dish per day. You may be surprised at how fun and easy it is. It also makes it easier to eat healthier, as you have greater control over what you are eating. Whether you eat to live or live to eat, you can enjoy and take pride in your food. Take control of your meals and indulge in some amazing cuisine!

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