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"Voice Your Choice" Shapes Vail Commons Menu Offerings to Students

September 28, 2000
CONTACT: Bill Giduz

By Jimmy Swansbrough '03 and Matt Garfield '04

For lunch last Wednesday, Davidson College freshman Mark Bardwell '04 devoured a sweet potato waffle, Southwestern vegetable chimichanga, Philly cheese steak sandwich, bratwurst hoagie, seaweed salad, and spicy chicken tortilla soup.
Senior student Keith Chapman enjoys a study lunch at the Commons

Bardwell's veritable smorgasbord lunch was made possible by an event called "Voice Your Choice: A Groovy Kind of Food Show." Davidson's dining services staff has sponsored the event for the last five years to give students a say in what goes on the menus at campus eateries. This year's theme was a 70s motif, with two huge lava lamps and vendors clad in tie-dyed shirts putting students into the retro mood.

Students moved from table to table, trying small portions of food from each. At the end of the meal, students filled out a form provided by dining services to determine which foods pleased their palates.

Sixteen vendors visited the campus to show off their products. Items ranged from seaweed salad to chocolate tortillas, from vegan delights to Dogzilla extra-long hot dogs. Among surveys compiled thus far the early student favorites are Philly cheese steak, seaweed salad, and Ben and Jerry's ice cream. Andrew Schoewe '03 remarked, "The Ben and Jerry's was breathtaking. I think a lot of people really loved that ice cream."

"I liked the cheese steak sandwich the most," Bardwell said, adding that his least favorite dish was the spicy chicken tortilla soup, because there was "no chicken, only beans."

Tim Combs, a vendor at the exhibition from Sharin Food Service in Huntersville, N.C., said his company wanted to offer a wide array of culinary creations.

"Variety is the spice of life," said Combs. "Nobody wants the same old thing."

Charlie Felder of Hillshire Farm also set up shop at the food show, offering his company's ever-popular polska kielbasa smoked sausage. Felder, who has taken part in similar events at several colleges in the Carolinas, says he thinks students are going for more turkey and all-beef products like the ones Mom used to make, rather than breaded foods with less flavor.

"Students want to eat the same things they eat at home," he said.

Dee Phillips, associate director of dining services, said the results give menu-planners a better idea of what kinds of foods tickle the taste buds of Davidson diners. "Every year, their tastes change," she said. Phillips said several of the most popular foods from this year's exhibition have already been added to future menus, including chicken cordon bleu, sweet potato waffles, and the vegetable spring rolls. "The waffles will be a good brunch item," Phillips noted.

While some of the items will be served at the Commons, others are more appropriate for the College Union Cafe.

Dining services orders most of its food from the U.S. Food Service Company, and will pass along requests for new items to that firm. While the food show is a unique opportunity for student input on their culinary tastes, Phillips added that she welcomes comments and suggestions from students at any time. "I have an open door policy," she said.

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