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Commons Dining Hall

February 18, 2008   There are two basic dining plans at Hamilton: the 21-meal plan (unlimited entrance into the dining halls) and the 14-meal plan (two meals a day). These meals can be attained at McEwen dining hall, Commons dining hall, the diner, or the pub (for lunch). Each of these providers has its draws, but I'm going to talk about Commons dining hall today.

Picture this: a large, cathedral-like room with stained-glass windows. The room is divided by a row of six, large square tables, seating 12 people each. Smaller, circular tables line the walls. On either end of the room, there is a balcony with tables overlooking the first floor. It's six p.m., and the floor is crawling with people — like ants.

My friends and I eat at Commons at the same time every day (5:30 p.m.) with the same people, plus or minus a few stragglers. What do we eat? Well, that depends on your tastes.

Bond, a very active friend, is notorious for eating burgers, fries, and pizza — which has targeted him with a slew of fat jokes. An example is my trivia team's name: "Dan Bond is Fat." Of course, being a running, soccer-playing, rock-climbing type of guy, this is all in jest.

Jack, who has been bugging me to write about him, eats like a girl. Usually he has a small bowl of salad, grilled chicken, a small plate of pasta and some yogurt. To drink: water and Gatorade.

Katie, my smallest roommate, is known to eat plate after plate of food. A vegetarian until she went abroad to Spain last year, Katie is now the biggest meat-eater I know.

At all times, Commons has a sandwich bar, a bagel bar, a selection of cereals, several cakes and deserts, a pizza bar, a soup station, a full salad bar, a selection of fruit, and a grill with chicken and hamburgers. At lunch, there is a pasta stir-fry bar and a sushi bar available for made-to-order items. Occasionally, there will also be a special bar — usually a Caesar salad bar, baked potato bar, or nacho bar. And every meal has a different "hot" meal as well, such as tonight's fried chicken, mac n' cheese, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, and summer squash.

In general, I see most girls eating a big plate of salad, followed by ice cream. Boys eat large plates of pasta with burgers and maybe a salad as well. Most people make several trips to the serving area — especially girls. Commons' biggest idiosyncrasy is that girls do not use trays. Why? I'm not entirely sure. I just know that sometime in the first weeks of freshman year, I was stopped from grabbing a tray by a friend saying "No, no ... girls don't use trays." And after that, I didn't use a tray.

In any given meal, I'll return to the serving area four or five times: for yogurt, for some cereal, for dessert, for coffee or tea, for more water, etc. People are constantly walking down the two center aisles, and it becomes a runway of sorts. The boys I sit with love watching girls in spandex pants and Ugg boots walk up and down the aisles. It's also fun seeing one's friends with regularity — hearing about classes or getting pumped up before IM sports games. Commons is definitely the most social of the dining halls.