The Tufts dining gastro experience

“Go forth confidently, even when you aren’t.” “Try new things.” “Don’t be afraid of failure.” I got to Tufts armed with a slew of advice and wisdom from people I respected and looked up to. I was amped to make the most of my college experience and I’d convinced myself I was ready for it.

But there was one thing the counsel of my elders and my inflated bravado hadn’t prepared me for: the dining halls.

I mean, obviously I was pumped about my unlimited meal plan privileges. Swiping in with liberty and gusto, I waltzed all over Dewick and Carm, from the waffle maker to the salad bar to the soft-serve ice cream machine. After some exploration, the burrito line and peach rings in Hodgdon quickly became my main jam.

Yet, after my initial romp through these nutritional havens, the excitement faded. I developed favorites and stopped trying new things. My salad was the same every day and my main courses devolved into a routine. Mind you, the food was never bad – you don’t have to be chef to realize the cuisine at Tufts is pretty good – but I became complacent.

One day, as I looked down at the same shoelace fries I ate every Tuesday alongside the customary taco salad, I decided enough was enough. Tufts had put all this food in front of me and I’d taken sufficient statistics to know the amount of combinations of my options was greater than what I was taking advantage of.

From that day forward, I started mixing dining hall ingredients to create as unique a gastronomic experience as possible. What follows are some of the best combos I’ve come across, the ingredients to which can be found almost any day of the week.

1. Vanilla soft-serve ice cream with Cinnamon Toast Crunch. On Sundae Sundays (or Sunday Sundaes? It’s a perpetual mystery here), swap the cereal for crushed Oreos and add some peanut butter.
2. Layered slushies in Hodgdon. Red with blue or red with yellow are solid bets. Yeah, fine, these are pretty obvious choices – but they’re equally as life changing (also, freshmen: before you do anything you regret, the brown is coffee flavored, not Coca-Cola).
3. Back to ice cream: put Nutella, and maybe some peanut butter, on the inside of a cone before adding the creamy stuff.
4. Loaded waffles. Put a liberal amount of Nutella on your golden, gridded masterpiece, followed by about the same amount of strawberry syrup. Then, sprinkle a bit of cinnamon and add a chopped banana. Top it off with a drizzle of maple syrup if you have a really good dentist.
5. Peanutellanana toast. Exactly what it sounds like: toast topped with peanut butter, Nutella and banana.
6. The best damn hot chocolate ever. This recipe has brought my friendships to new levels and is best served between November and March. Fill a coffee mug 2/3 of the way with hot chocolate (stop pressing the button when it gets to about halfway). Then, add a shot of hazelnut coffee, leaving a half-inch of space for a swirl of whipped cream Finally, sprinkle a bit of cinnamon on top. Repeat, making 3-4 more cups. Congratulations, you’re now a saint to everyone at your table (this one’s pretty relevant, considering the snowstorm we’re about to get).

It’s okay to have favorites. But those should be the meals you can always rely on, not the only ones you eat. Try new things and don’t be afraid of failure. Dig into your creations confidently. Last but not least, be sure to thank to dining staff that makes it all possible.