I watched “Napoleon Dynamite” (2004) not too long ago. At one point, as Napoleon’s grandma is preparing for a day of ATV shenanigans down at the dunes, Napoleon asks her what he can have to eat while she’s gone. Frustrated, she tells him to make “a dang quesadill-a” if he gets hungry.

Her words resonated with me. Fast forward three hours later, and I’m taking the first bite of my experimental dining hall quesadilla. If you ever find yourself jonesing for a quesadilla at 12:30 in the afternoon and simply cannot wait until Hodgdon fires up the burrito station in the evening, read on.

Making a quesadilla in the dining hall takes a bit of time, but if you take a few minutes to put one together, you’ll very likely be the only cool kid eating one. They’re best during lunch, when a bunch of the taco-related fixings are out. Vámonos:

  1. Grab a tortilla. These are usually available around the deli area.
  2. If you want meat on your quesadilla, make sure it’s ready to put on your tortilla. For example, if you want grilled chicken, cut it into bits before, not after, putting it on your tortilla, or you risk mauling the most important part of your quesadilla (and your integrity). Any shredded meat works nicely, too.
  3. Layer one half of your tortilla with some shredded cheese. I like a cheddar and mozzarella blend. If for some reason the dining hall has Oaxacan cheese one day, use that.
  4. On goes the meat. I think this goes without saying, but put all the toppings on the same side, keeping in mind you have to fold this thing over at some point.
  5. Add your veggies of choice. Make your mother happy and use at least two other than lettuce. Peppers, corn, black beans and pico de gallo (tomato salsa) are all good options.
  6. Guacamole is a must, if it’s there. Apply liberally.
  7. Add some more cheese to the top. Make sure that you can close the tortill-a, ensuring that you haven’t overloaded your creation, before folding it up.
  8. Put the whole thing on a panini press. To do this without disemboweling your beautiful creation, you should use two spatulas. This looks professional and cool, anyway. Close the press, and let your quesadilla sit for a few minutes. I can’t tell you exactly how long I left mine there for, but I made a banana milkshake while I waited and however long that took was the perfect amount of time. (You can find the article I wrote explaining how to make your own shake by searching for it on the Daily’s website).
  9. Use two spatulas to take it off the press. If the cheese isn’t melted or the tortilla isn’t crispy, leave it on a bit longer.
  10. Cut the thing in half and eat it with your hands. This is more fun than using a knife and fork.

If, in the process of grilling your quesadilla, some of your toppings fell out and glued themselves to the panini press, take some time to scrape them away with a spatula. With a great lunch comes great responsibility.

One last piece of advice: Saying “quesadill-a” is way more fun than saying it the “proper” way.

P.S. If you ever want to try one of my devious concoctions but don’t want to/don’t have the confidence to make it yourself/would like to be waited on, I’ll happily make you one in exchange for being swiped in. Cheers!


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