Catered living: is it all it's cracked up to be?

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By Geesue Abrichami, First Year Anthropology

The Croft Magazine // Catered living advertises itself to be easy, reliable, and delicious. It promises the freedom to not have to worry about cooking yourself dinner, and instead allowing yourself more time to study (or pretend to study.) But is this always the case?

Deserts are always included | Epigram / Geesue Abrichami

Living the catered life can be a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, you don’t need to worry about cooking, or going on weekly grocery rounds. You don’t need to worry about whether your chicken is well done, or if your flatmate is going to steal your broccoli from the fridge. But at the same time, you do have to constrict yourself to set meal times and you don’t have the freedom to choose what you eat. ‘Meat-Free Mondays’ aren’t to everyone’s taste, and you could also argue that, by not cooking for yourself now, you are inadequately prepared for life next year.

First of all, the food on offer is certainly no fine dining experience, but I would argue that it’s pretty good. There are a variety of food options, such as pasta, risotto, schnitzel, fish and much more, with a pleasant portion of dessert that always accompanies the meal. The catering team also works hard to cater for vegetarian students, with meat-free options available at breakfast and dinner. In fact, in the university’s effort to contribute to the fight against climate change, all catered students get involved in the vegetarian way of life on ‘Meat-Free Mondays’. There are mixed reviews on this from non-vegetarians, but I have personally enjoyed the variety it has offered to my diet.

Who says vegetarian options have to be boring? | Epigram / Geesue Abrichami

I live in Stoke Bishop, and I can confirm that being catered and being located on the edge of the world is not a good combination. When you have a day full of lectures and an evening of extracurricular activities, there is sometimes no time to go back to Stoke Bishop for dinner and then to return to the centre. In my first few weeks, after having evening seminars, I struggled to make dinner and my 8pm water polo training, so I spent a lot of money on Subway. But, I can confirm that it is possible to manage it once you’ve gotten used to the U1 bus timings, and if you can rush through your meal. Although, I have to mention that packed meals are an option ‘if you have given your Catering Manager 24 hours notice’, but that is an organisational skill that only few possess.

Not only this, but whether you are in the North Village or not, we can all relate to the breakfast struggle. On weekdays, breakfast is served between 07:30 and 09:00, and after a night at Gravity or Blue Mountain, this meal can be a tough one to make. You often face the dilemma of choosing food or an extra hour of sleep; in my case, as well is in that of the majority’s, sleep wins, always. The problem with this is that the next catered meal is dinner, so you inevitably end up spending money on snacks and substitutes, alongside what you have already wasted on your missed meals, which is not exactly the greatest way of managing money. Honestly though, I only have myself to blame.

Breakfasts vary from continental to pastries and fruit! | Epigram / Geesue Abrichami

I imagine that self-catered students don’t face these problems. In fact, self-catered students probably have a sense of independence that catered students cannot currently match, as they have to manage their time between essays, reading, clubbing and cooking. In fact, they will probably find it easier to transition to Second Year life, while we’ll just be starting to explore the wonders of cooking next September. On the other hand, us catered students don’t have to worry about if we are eating nutritious food, and whether our food stock has run out; we simply have to go get served, which is a big perk in itself. And, I must say, only catered students without access to a stove can learn valuable skills such as making pasta in a microwave…

Being catered definitely has its drawbacks, but at the end of the day, nothing matches being able to sit and have a meal around your friends in the dining hall. After all, I’m sure we’ll have plenty of time to experiment in the kitchen next year.

Featured: Epigram/ Geesue Abrichami

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