MORE BLOGS: Blurt | Solid State | Good Carma | Mistress Maeve

Food and Drink

January 16, 2009


Some weather we're havin'.  Nothing makes the morning walk to class brighter like a temperature of -10°F.  A true Vermont welcome back to school, I guess. Not to be too gross, but I think the mucus in my nose froze solid today. Eeek.

It could be worse, though.  According to the National Weather Service, the record low temperature observed in Burlington was a reading of -30°F, set on January 15, 1957. And from February 12 to 18, 1979, Burlington went over six days without seeing the temperature go above zero on the thermometer. By comparison, this is but a light chill. Okay, maybe a medium chill. But once this snap goes away, the typical temperatures in the 20s that we'll have for the rest of the winter will seem downright tropical by comparison.

In the meantime, since it's far too cold to go anywhere, enjoy this video of a guy making a small orchestra of Tic-Tacs, and then wonder why you never had that kind of creativity or ambition (or corporate cash backing).

November 07, 2008

St. Michael's Tries to Go Trayless

Though it inspired nearly-unanimous good feelings across the St. Michael's College campus this week, the election of Barack Obama as our next president was only the second-most-talked-about issue around the lovely college grounds this week. The primary topic of discussion? Our dining hall in Alliot Hall got rid of its trays this week. The trays will return next week, but they'll be gone for good come January... maybe.

The college's sustainability coordinator, Heather Ellis, along with our environmental group, Green Up SMC, have been advocating traylessness in Alliot for much of this year. Champlain, Middlebury, and UVM have all been trayless since at least last year, but trends take a while to get out here to Colchester. Sodexo and the Student Association finally sponsored this week's attempt at traylessness. To their credit, both sources have been behind the move, with the Student Association distributing a few emails and flyers touting the positive reasons behind getting rid of our trays.

Obviously the environmental benefits would be numerous, as each tray takes 11 oz. of hot water to wash, not to mention the soap and chemicals that are required, as dining services general manager Hank Strashnick says in this article. Indeed, a sign was displayed in the dining hall on Thursday evening announcing that 920 gallons of water had been saved during the first three days of trayless Alliot. The hope is that traylessness will reduce the amount of uneaten food wasted by students, as well. Apart from the green benefits, the costs saved by not having to wash trays will be put towards the planned "fourth meal" program, where the dining hall will open late at night on weeknights — just in case three meals a day of delicious Sodexo college food weren't enough.

Still, the SA and Sodexo have taken pains to make it clear that this is merely a pilot program, and that the plans to go totally trayless in the spring semester could still be called off if this doesn't go well. And there has, in fact, been some outcry towards the no-tray movement. Why? Well, because it's just too damn hard to carry all that food without a tray!

Listen: if you're eating enough food that it requires more than one trip to the serving area, then you could probably use the exercise.

A final decision on whether or not Alliot will, in fact, go permanently trayless next semester has not yet been announced. Despite the complaints, I'm confident that the SA and Sodexo will realize the extensive benefits and make the change permanent. Because it'd be absolutely pathetic if we sacrificed the very extensive environmental and monetary benefits of dumping trays just because a few people can't be bothered to make a second trip to get their extra bowl of pasta and cake.

More coverage on trayless Alliot is available from our two campus media sources, The Echo and The Defender. Notice how the kid in the second picture of The Echo's article swiped a tray from the small pile that's been left for disabled students. What a badass.

October 13, 2008


Champlaincompost Curious to find out how much food students waste in dining halls every day? One day last month, a friend of mine and I tried to find out. We hung out at the Champlain College cafeteria from 4:45 to 7:00 p.m. Though much of Sodexo’s excess food is composted, this only occurs on the kitchen’s side. The student extras simply spill into a drain and are not composted. So we collected a scale, some latex gloves and some bins and grabbed the finished plates of the students. The first bin collected weighed 15 lbs.

After 13 bins had been captured, we found the total waste over a two-hour period was 125 ½ lbs. I weigh less than that! One would think my high-fat, low-exercise diet would lead to different results. At any rate, based on our projections, Champlain College, a relatively small school, most likely generates around 300 lbs. of waste a day. Close to 2100 lbs. a week!

Many students were simply thankful that they didn’t have to spend those countless seconds separating plates, napkins and silverware by the conveyor belt. Others wondered what we were doing. Our answers ranged from “Collecting the waste, bagging it and sending it to China on a red-eye-flight so they have enough sustenance to make you a sweatshirt,” and “Making a mean omelet in the morning for cheap.” After startling them for a second with those infeasible and disgusting plans, we would inform them that we were doing data projections as part of an environmental club, and planned on sending the waste as compost to the Intervale.

We noticed that students often felt guilty for not eating the entire plate and came up with excuses as to why this had occurred. The aim is not to guilt trip people into changing their ways. Rather, it’s to simply provide awareness about a problem that potentially could be turned into a benefit to the community. So next time at the caf, think about how you eat.

Photo: The Champlain Beaver, Albert Martini and a Sodexo employee.

September 16, 2008


Last month, Seven Days published an article lauding the "green" credentials of UVM-contracted campus food mega-corp Sodexo.

Lots of things come to the minds of us UVM students when we think about Sodexo. Sometimes "green" pops into my head. For example, green is the color my face turns after eating a greasy Sodexho burger sandwiched in a stale bun. Green is the envy I felt towards off-campus students when I lived on-campus and was forced to eat garbage three times a day. Green is what the lettuce in my off-campus fridge looks like, as opposed to to the brown lettuce that sits out all day at the Sodexo salad bar in on-campus dining halls.

The author of the article, Kevin Kelley, did hit all the points of Sodex-dissent among college students.  Yes, Sodexo employees don't get paid livable wages. Yes, Sodexo is a far cry from "local," operating in countries from North America to Europe. True, Sodexo used to sell its services to prisons. But the article did miss one thing: The food sucks. 

Of course, food quality is somewhat subjective, so I won't get into the dull and repetitive menu options,  the low-quality meats, the undercooked pasta, or the fly-filled dining halls. If you want to hear about that, go to Simpson Dining Hall on Redstone campus and ask anyone what he or she has had for dinner for the past two weeks. Or check out what Urban Dictionary — the raw and explicit pulse of American youth — has to say about Sodexo. It's good for a laugh. 

But one thing that is totally objective, totally undeniable, totally known to anyone who lives on campus, and totally gross, is Sodex-Poo.

When you eat Sodexo food, you will take a trip to the bathroom within thirty minutes. Guaranteed. Some think they put laxatives in the food. Others say that our bodies are so disgusted by what's inside it, it pushes it out super-quick. Regardless, Sodex-food becomes Sodex-poo in a matter of minutes. Without fail.

Honestly, some overpaid government bureaucrat should do a study on how much toilet water is used by Sodexo campuses vs. non-Sodexo campuses. I bet all the UVM Sodex-poo flushes alone are grounds for disqualification from the "green" label.

Now that I live off-campus, my bowels are finally back in order. True, I no longer have the privilege of being served prison-quality food by a greenwashed corporate giant, but that's the price I have to pay to go to the bathroom on a regular schedule. And at least I can take solace in knowing that I am helping the environment by not eating on-campus. Now that's truly green.

September 10, 2008

Are you chicken?

Burlington has quite the spread of late-night delivery options that extends way past Domino's pizza. ThisFoodwingsidebar week's Seven Days has the most extensive review of local chicken wings delivery ever compiled. Winging It takes the study of the hot wing to a brand new level of criticism, looking very closely at four local establishments in very specific areas of importance ( such as Dressing Quality, Finger Burns and Heat Range). Use it wisely — I'm sure you'll need it this weekend.

Personally, I'm all about Wings Over Burlington's Jet Fuel boneless wings. They'll bring some tears to your eyes.

September 03, 2008

UVM Gets Amethysted

Mccardell Next Stop: Tequila and Tortillas at the Davis Center + Pong and Flip Cup in the Gutterson Arena!

UVM Student Government Association President Jay Taylor tells me that the SGA Senate passed their first bill of the new semester Tuesday night. And for once, the student government has done something that Catamounts may actually appreciate.

The bill supports the Amethyst Initiative, a petition signed by more than 100 university presidents who agree that we need to begin a national conversation about lowering the 21 drinking age. Pioneered here in Vermont by former Middlebury president John McCardell (see photo), the Amethyst Initiative gained national attention this summer as major college presidents from Tufts to Syracuse signed on.

An excerpt from their site:

Launched in July 2008, the Amethyst Initiative is made up of chancellors and presidents of universities and colleges across the United States. These higher education leaders have signed their names to a public statement that the 21 year-old drinking age is not working, and, specifically, that it has created a culture of dangerous binge drinking on their campuses.

UVM President Fogel has not yet signed the petition. Duh.

Ironically, the ancient Greeks believed the Amethyst, a purple stone, had the ability to prevent intoxication. I guess the Kegs and Eggs Initiative was taken. 

College students like to drink alcohol. People between 18 and 21 like to drink alcohol. On campus, off-campus, between on and off-campus — it's been that way since long before the drinking age was moved to 21. Maybe that's not a good enough reason for some. Perhaps changing the drinking age back to 18 is indeed a poor decision. But it's time that we on the front lines sit down and have an intelligent conversation about it. Isn't having honest debates part of what college is all about?   

That and illegally drinking obscene amounts of alcohol and engaging in reckless activities...

Photo by Matthew Thorsen, from "All Stirred Up," a profile of McCardell and his work in last year's Aug. 22 issue of Seven Days.

All Rights Reserved © SEVEN DAYS 1995-2009 | PO Box 1164, Burlington, VT 05402-1164 | 802.864.5684