“Back home, I barely use any oil at all, but here the food is so greasy!”, says one of my roommates. She remembers that when she first started going to UC Santa Cruz, adapting to the food in the dining halls was one of the hardest parts simply because of the sheer amount of heavy food. Even though the cooks make a stab at diversity, at the end of the day the Daal and the veggie lasagna all kind of taste the same and you leave the dining hall already crashing from a carb coma.
I confessed my own moment of cultural adjustment to my roommate. It wasn’t the type of food that was new to me, since greasiness is not exactly a novel concept in a town that prides itself primarily on friet and waffles. Instead, I was taken aback by how the endless availability of food is taken for granted. Students in Maastricht don’t necessarily cook meals from scratch every night of the week, but the simple fact of living on your own confronts you with food preparation; grocery stores are nearby and cheaper than restaurants. Food here is institutionalized, however, even in terms of logistics: why would I get on a bus for twenty minutes to buy groceries if I could walk for five minutes and find food already prepared? Not to mention it’s cheaper: with a meal plan, students are allowed to spend as much time, eating as much as they like in any given dining hall.
I am definitely eating more here. I’m always starving which may, of course, come from the fact that I am hiking up and down hills in between classes every day, the way I only would on summer vacation hikes in the Swiss mountains. But I am also harboring the sneaking suspicion that this constant hunger rumbling in the background of my consciousness is an effect of what I have jokingly called ‘the See-Food Diet’ – when I see food, I eat.