Where Did You Get That? Curating your Caf Experience

By: Sofia Lo Piano 

It all begins with that classic Caf chime. Like a song, it serenades your steps as you enter the bustling Nicholson Dining Commons. Curious plates dart by, some looking like nothing that’s listed on the menu. 

Where did you get that?

The Caf has been the topic of a handful of articles from The Point in recent years. From unreported food poisoning to challenges for those with dietary needs and even worms in the salad bar – many students have had less-than-ideal dining experiences. However, a Point article from 2022 stated that students have been making their own versions of Caf foods, getting creative in curating their meals to satisfy their nutritional needs and to make the most of their dining experience.

Now, it’s 2024. Here’s what some current students are doing.

The first step is the practice of what third-year history major Abby Dawson calls “the walkaround.” 

“I go and look at every station before I decide on something,” Dawson said. 

First-year writing major Grace Chaves agrees, saying that mixing and matching among the various stations is a part of her daily Caf routine. 

According to her sister, first-year psychology major Anna Dawson, Abby is known for her mixed bowls. Relying on the steamed rice as a base, she adds anything from potatoes, chicken and chickpeas, to available vegetables, topping it with marinara sauce. She experiments often, making her meals uniquely her own. One of her favorite combinations is marinara sauce mixed with red pepper hummus.

“Some of my combos have been a little gross, I have to say,” Dawson said laughing. 

But through trial and error, she has been curating a secret menu of sorts, inspiring others to experiment. 

Third-year nutrition major Lana dos Anjos has begun to mix and match because of Dawson, and she now experiments with different stations. She enjoys a colorful salad with items from the salad bar, stacked mix and sprouts stations. She said she likes to have a variety of cooked and uncooked vegetables. Primarily eating plant-based, she opts for tofu, legumes and whole grains like quinoa for her protein. 

For Anna Dawson, the optimal Caf experience is a mindset. A friend once said to her that it is what you make it. If you come in with a mindset that there won’t be anything good, then you won’t find anything. But if you focus on what could be good, there will be something.

“I have been imagining the Caf as my kitchen, except everything is already cooked for me. It’s just what I choose to put on my plate. I can make myself a whole gourmet meal, and it’s already cooked for me, I just have to put it together,” Dawson said. 

This is what Chaves does. If there aren’t egg salad sandwiches at the stacked mix station, she has a system for making an egg salad sandwich whenever she wants: mix hard-boiled eggs from the salad bar with mayo, mustard, pickles and onion from the grill; add salt and pepper from the table; mix it all, and put it on two slices of white bread from the sandwich station. 

First-year undeclared major Abby Pickett said to take advantage of the grilled chicken available at the grill, as it can be added to anything. If you take some chicken to the sandwich bar, you can ask for it to be cut up and added to your sandwich or wrap. She also likes to add chips to her sandwiches for an extra crunch. 

For dessert, soft-serve ice cream is a popular ingredient in inventive eating.

Pickett enjoys milkshakes, adding ice, milk and soft serve together for a cold creamy treat. When in the mood for coffee, she adds soft serve to the cold brew. 

Chaves likes to microwave a cookie or brownie for 15 seconds before topping it with vanilla ice cream. Another go-to is an ice cream and cookie sandwich.

“Have fun with it and experiment. You’re paying for the food anyway, get that extra plate and just see if something works. It’s your meal, you should enjoy it,” Pickett said.

So next time you see something that looks like it’s from a secret menu, now you know the answer to “Where did they get that?”

Stay tuned for next month’s edition of more Caf creations including a Popeye-approved soup,  breakfast sandwich ideas, pasta salad and a cereal dessert delight.