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Canteen Close-ups

Tying in with Lifestyle's feature on tiffin, Rising Stars takes a look at the other dimension of school lunches. You guessed right. The RS team are hitting the streets this week and making a tour of some campus canteens around town and you get to join us on the beat.
~ RS Team ~

DU Delicacias

There are around 25/26 canteens and dining halls in the Dhaka University (DU) Campus where everyday 12500 to 13000 students take their lunch and supper. All of these canteens are run by the DU authority. To see the how these canteens are preparing and serving the daily meals we went to a few canteens that are frequented by students at lunch and supper time.

DUCSU and TSC canteens
First we went to the DUCSU canteen which is frequented by mostly the students of the Arts Faculty. DUCSU serves breakfast and lunch and closes down after lunch period (2 pm). More than ninety percent customers of DUCSU are non-resident students. The price of lunch is relatively high (Tk 18) but the quality of the food being served is comparatively better.

We took the permission of the supervisor to see the kitchen and how the food was being prepared. Baburchi Jagadish Chandra Rain informed us that everyday around 500 students take their meal here. We asked them what facilities they get as a staff of the DUCSU canteen. He told us that the pachality ('facility' in his tongue) they get is very little as their due rations are of very low quality. Teachers and PhD students also come to DUCSU to take their daily meals. Same goes with the TSC canteen. TSC is also preferable mostly to non-resident students and it also serves breakfast and lunch.

A visit denied to 'Laden guha'
After DUCSU and TSC we went to the dining hall of the Surya Sen Hall. We tried to get the permission to visit the kitchen but the counterman (who was busy smoking in the dining hall) told us bluntly that he will show the kitchen only if the authority comes to visit. Here we can add that the kitchen of the Surya Sen Hall is so damp and dark that it was named as 'Laden guha' (the cave of Laden) by the inmates.

Water?- take a second look!
Then we went to the dining hall of Mohsin Hall. The whole dining hall and the kitchen were reeking of something evil and the kitchen was barely lit. The dal they were serving resembled water at first glance but a second look confirmed it as yellow water. Everyday 650 students take their lunch and supper in this dining hall. The price is Tk 15 maximum.

A bit better
The dining hall of Jagannath Hall is a lot better than that of the Mohsin Hall and the price is comparatively low (12 Tk maximum). Shankar Chandra Biswas, the counter man of the dining hall told us that everyday 600 students dine here during lunch and supper time and during Eid holiday it has to take the extra pressure as the other dining halls remain close.

Due to time constraint we could not go to all the residential dining halls. But according to the resident students most of the dining halls serve below standard food. They want the authorities to take immediate steps to maintain the standard of the food served in the residential halls.

Sunnydale Snakes

The canteen of Sunnydale is a mobile one, and not a fixed cafeteria. This is in existent during the tiffin period only. The food is brought from MAMA HUT which is authorized by the BDFC. There is a wide range of food which is available- samusa, shingara, éclairs, chop, roll, sandwich, burger, pizza, fried rice with chicken, cake, chips, soup and so on….. The price is reasonable, and none of them exceeds TK. 30
Coming to the issue of hygiene, the food is of good quality, and it is pleasant-tasting. The practice or principle of cleanliness is satisfactorily maintained. The soup is served in one time use glasses. However, the fares are served from hand to hand without the usage of gloves. This raises a crucial question whether the hands are washed or not. Overall, we have little to complain about.

BU bites

Type of food served at Brac University canteen :
Snacks, beverages, tea and coffee. Recent additions: fruit juice and Lassi. Breakfast and lunch is also provided.

Snack items: shingaras, samosas, chops (egg and beef). Heavier items include sandwiches, burgers and rolls. The price is more or less at the same level as the other fast food shops in the area, but frankly the quality does leave a lot to be desired. The biggest reason why a large portion of the student body still eats there is time constraint. For obvious reasons, eating at the canteen saves a lot of time compared to eating in one of the nearby fast food shops.

Most students agree that the price is not a very big issue in their choice, since it is mostly uniform, at least when it comes to snacks. So, the time is what makes them choose the canteen at times. At other times, they would rather spend some extra time to go someplace else in search of better quality.

The largest part of the revenue for the canteen still probably comes from the sell of drinks. Students will be students, and they spend a large part of the day chatting in the canteen. As a mandatory part of such addas, rounds after rounds of drinks (tea, coffee or cold drinks) are ordered. Engrossed in the chatter, no one seems to be bothered about the standard of the tea / coffee.

As a mandatory part of such addas, rounds after rounds of drinks (tea, coffee or cold drinks) are ordered. Engrossed in the chatter, no one seems to be bothered about the standard of the tea / coffee.

Breakfast: The main targets of the breakfast package are those unfortunate members of the faculty / student body that have a class at 8 AM. This package offers a cup of daal, a cup of vegetables / 1 egg, 3 paratas/rotis. Previously, a cup of tea used to be part of the deal, but that is no longer the case. This package costs from Tk. 20 to Tk. 30, and that is counting the tea.

Before I forget, there are two varieties of the tea and coffee: small cup = Tk. 3 and large cup = Tk. 5. the actual amount one has to pay for the breakfast depends on whether one chooses paratas or rutis, and what kind of tea one would like.

Lunch: there are two varieties of lunch served every day: normal lunch and special lunch. Normal lunch is plain rice, vegetable, daal and one variable item, which is usually chicken, beef or fish.

It costs Tk. 22. The standard of the normal lunch varies depending on what the variable item is: chicken is usually good, but the fish and beef preparations fail to attract much attention. One reason why the normal lunch sells a lot is the lack of plain rice preparations in other shops. Those who prefer plain rice with curry have no other alternative.

Special lunch is the richer dish. It varies from day to day. The usual list of items offered is:
Khichuri (Chicken\Beef)
Chicken Polao
Beef Tehari
Fried Rice

The chicken khichuri is good, but same cannot be said of the beef. The chicken polao is edible, barely. The tehari and fried rice are way too oily to be a good choice for health conscious people.

That was all about the food. Now let's check out the environment. Regardless of the price and quality of the food, the environment is good. The students' area is spacious and cleaned properly by the waiters several times a day. Faculty members have a separate area in which to sit, separated by a glass wall. The teachers have to keep an eye on the students even in the canteen, it seems.

The kitchen, where this reporter had the opportunity to work in during the flood relief work, is also scrupulously clean. A lot of emphasis is placed on hygiene, one has to admit.

The water is provided from filters, and for those who are still not convinced, mineral water is also available. The kitchen is cleaned every morning and evening, and the waiters always wear gloves when working around the food.
Voila! You have the Brac Canteen.

Mastermind munchies

Initially, everyone loves Mastermind's beef roll but then about six months afterwards they just get sick and tired of it! Because of popular demand, its beef roll is served almost every alternate day if not daily. A common complaint about the roll nowadays is the fact that it has too much cucumber in it and the beef can rarely be found. But it has to be mentioned that the parathas with the rolls are really perfect; not too oily, not too dry. The shingara comes next, there is nothing that special about it, but some people like it. The alu chop is something that that we all dread. You know how a day at school feels, you are always hungry and you'll eat pretty much anything that is given to you, even if it is inedible. Sometimes puris and sandwiches are served, and they are just below average. There's a fountain machine for soft drinks and it never has anything other than Coke and Sprite (you'll get the Sprite if you are lucky). Even though pretty much everyone buys the soft drinks, there is no other way to describe it: terrible! It has more water than coke, and the 'fizz' that is usually associated with soft drinks is practically absent. It is a rip-off, I tell you. 12 taka for watery-disgusting Coke! The students just hope and pray for the day that 250 mL bottles will be available.

The canteen of Mastermind (for the A level students at least) is relatively clean (except for the discoloured and dirty towels that are used to keep it clean). Everything is done in front of you; about 10 buas continuously peeling, cutting, frying, shouting and a small man serving you Coke all the time. (Beware, the Coke guy refuses to give change!)

All in all the canteen isn't all that bad, and we'll never forget the 'addas' coke fights, food fights, cat fights and rare fist fights that we have amidst the white chairs and tables and 'hovering admins'.

NSU Nibbles

As far as variety of foodstuff and drinks goes, you will be hard pressed to find any other canteen that provides as many alternatives as the North South University canteen.

Located on the ground floor of the Sher Plaza, what is more commonly known to the students as the SPZ, the canteen is as much a part of NSU history as anything else.

There are a huge number of food and drink items for sale during the day with special menus for lunch, which include biryiani, khicuri and Chinese. The ever-popular fast food is for sale throughout the day as long as the stock lasts.

According to the canteen staff, all the foodstuff is prepared by them, before classes open for the day. These include everything from the burger to the shingara.

Quality you say? The quality of the food is distinctly mediocre. Average at best, it is made worse by the atmosphere of the canteen. It seems, that to the authorities concerned, the term 'airing the room' finds no place in their vocabulary. A stuffy smell of food (along with a mixture of things I have no wish to mention) always hangs around the 'air-conditioned' room. No student really wants to hang around there too long, unless of course there is a good game on TV.

Hygiene could definitely be improved and the room needs a drastic makeover. That said however, the shingara and chotpoti at NSU is definitely one of the best I have had. Plus there are a diversified number of drinks on sale. I have seen RC Orange and Mirinda Apple on sale at NSU before anywhere else. And of course, you never have to return the Mountain Dew bottles….

Scholastica's Sustenance

How would you feel if you knew that a well-known restaurant was catering to your school cafeteria? If you're a Scholastican, it should not be very difficult to imagine, because the cafeteria in the Uttara campus is stocked up with delectable goodies from Sajna.

For most of the Scholasticans, the cafeteria is a popular hangout since it's very clean and well organized. With almost ten rows of tables with at least 50 chairs in each row, it's huge, but still not big enough to hold the whole student population at once, so different classes have different recession time.

All the tables are very clean all the time because the eagle-eyed support staffs keep doing rounds after each recess period to ensure everything is spiffy. The plates and spoons are just as clean and most importantly they are dry when the food is served

As for the food, the students get a wide range of choices. Dosa, which costs about Tk. 20 is available in the cafeteria five days a week and is usually accompanied by chotpoti, phuchka and papri chat all of which costs Tk.10 and they are available during the short break. Well that was the appetizer and for the main course the students pay only Tk.35 and that includes a wide range of foods in a set menu that differs every day. This usually includes pizzas, hot dogs, burgers, chicken fries and Deshi items such as biryani, khichuri, achari beef with paratha and many more. All the items have a finger licking taste and it's hard for most of the students to satisfy themselves with one full course.

There are several fountain soft drinks machines choose from, and the drinks cost only Tk.10 rather than the usual price of Tk.12. Only the Polar ice creams that are available in the cafeteria don't really taste too good when compared to Igloo ice creams.

The kitchen is just behind the cafeteria and it is very clean and hygienic. Most of the cooks wear the kitchen gowns and the hats while all the waiters wear plastic gloves on their hands and use spoons when they serve the food. The washbasins usually have new soaps everyday and they are also very well maintained. In short you will enjoy your time at the Scholasticans' cafeteria.

Savar Savouries

Far, far away, into a distant remote land in Savar, students of BRAC University are sent to complete their Savar Residential Semester for four months where they are made to enjoy the soothing air, the refreshing green lemon trees and the masala explosion inside unknown fleshes!

Since all the lumps of meat appear the same color of all species when landing on our plates, we simply stare at it with awe.

Then some Einstein announces his discovery and we are able to finally dig into the "whatever" is lying there on the plates giving us the "Can't believe you are willing to eat something that looks like me" look!

But then again, it's not that bad. It's simply food, which just tastes better when dear mummy gives it a little love! However, by being in Savar we have definitely learned to appreciate whatever we find back home in our refrigerators.

And hey, we've also learned to grin at the sight of luxuries like ice cream and coke! As soon as the dining secretary announces the additional side-kicks of our regular food intakes, we can't help but expose the 32 off-white soldiers in our mouth that stand stiff without complaining at all.

It just gets to show how much we take certain things for granted, without even thinking twice on how some people out there can't even dream of a second meal during the day. Life at its simplest feels like the best at such times and it becomes easier to make oneself understand that we should just take everything as it is, because lets face it...it's just food, eat it!





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