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The university buffet: discretion advised

2012 November 4
by Zoe Strimpel

Tempting but bad for you: the buffet of junk food love on offer as a student.











If you’re single, you can either search doggedly and sentimentally search for “the one”, withholding sexual intimacy until a relationship is confirmed; or you can throw yourself at as many people as possible and see what sticks. As you mature, the allure of the “see what sticks” approach – especially if you’re a woman – sort of fades. You don’t really want to spend time, even if (in some cases especially if) it’s sexual time, with someone who will inevitably be callous because they don’t know you. What’s the point?

So if romantic choice becomes a thing to be curated and managed rather than binged upon, returning to student life presents a very different picture.

Instead of a three course meal in a gastropub – or sometimes an Atkins diet – university presents a huge buffet; not the sort overflowing with stuffed crab and lobster and caviar, but one piled high with indeterminate chopped meat awash in  Co-op mayonnaise; bowls of ready salteds; iceberg lettuce, sticky chocolate mousse and tinned peaches. There may be some foie gras and Dom Perignon in there somewhere, but it’s hard to find. Instead, it’s easier to just attack from the outside in, gorging your way through the kebab meat, the slop and the iceberg.

What you (read: I) don’t want to do is lose the ability to distinguish between the curation approach – ie the selected three course gastro pub meal – and the buffet binge approach.

It’s hard, let me tell you, when everyone around you seems to be piling their plates high at the slop buffet. It’s not that the individuals involved are on a par with mayonnaise-soaked discount meat. It’s that the overall effect of the collegiate meat market is, in my view, unhealthy. To borrow a term from, erm, myself, it can easily become a diet of junk food love. Just because everyone’s reasonably bright – a physicist, an engineering phD – doesn’t mean they’re going to be good for you.

At least, this is what I try to tell myself as my younger colleagues (read: age 23) swirl into the night every night, bright-eyed at the prospect of a cocktail night in a club hosted by the rugby lads (costing £15); or a chance to dress up as a rubix cube and switch clothes with other “colours” as the night progresses.

In my view, bingeing is always easier than choosing well – “I’ll take everything, waiter” is just so much more fun than “no thanks”. But the romantic binger gets fat on junk food love while the careful chooser remains slim and vital, fuelled by quality, not slop.



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