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Penland cafeteria redefines dorm food

Nov. 19, 1998

Of all the changes Baylor University is presently undergoing, I think the one most grossly overlooked is the renovation of Penland Cafeteria.

At the beginning of the semester, Penland was in a shambles. Construction, makeshift food stations and temporary tables filled the cafe. It was at this point that I elected to patronize the already established Memorial Cafeteria until Penland got on its feet.

A few weeks later when I returned, I was astonished to witness the culinary transformation. Not only was the cafeteria finished, it was a virtual playground for those of us with a wide variety of tastes.

After acclimating myself to the new layout of the cafeteria, I grabbed my tray and set out to find the ideal lunch.

My first stop was the salad bar. After some searching, I realized that the salad plates were stacked in a refrigerated cabinet next to the lettuce. What did we do to deserve this? I've done my research and haven't heard any other schools who get their salad plates cooled. I only receive treatment like this at restaurants. I happily piled my plate full with lettuce that wouldn't begin to warm up for at least 10 minutes.

Next I searched for an entree. I felt lucky, so I opted for some Mexican food. When I reached the counter, what would greet me but a brand new tortilla machine. We are talking some high-tech stuff here. I watched with amazement as the tortillas spilled through the machine perfectly round and thin. This thing rivaled Taco Cabana with its tortilla production. All Penland needs is some spicy queso and they could open for business at 2 a.m. every weekend. I decided to try the beef fajitas and numbly found my way out of line.

My shock subsiding, I sat down at the spacious new tables in the colorful new seats. As usual, I dug in without any hesitation to find something I hadn't experienced in quite some time. I burned my mouth. The food was hot, but I didn't complain; this was something I had longed for the previous two years at this school.

Finishing my meal, my mind turned to dessert. Things couldn't be perfect, I thought. They probably just transferred those stale cookies to a station in the back. To my pleasant surprise, instead of stale cookies I saw coconut cream pie, cake, hot apple cobbler and the piece de resistance, ice cream with candy topping! I nearly dropped my Dr Pepper. I returned to my seat with an abundance of sweet food I probably should have avoided.

My subsequent visits to Penland Cafeteria revealed other delights including a station with attendants making personalized dishes and the newest fad in food, wraps. All in all, I couldn't have been happier about the new and improved Penland Cafeteria. In a world where college dorm cuisine is notoriously inadequate, Baylor gives students who couldn't choke down another cold corndog hope for a new tomorrow filled with strawberry shortcake and lemon meringue pie.

(Susan Searfoss is a junior English major from Aurora, Colo.)

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