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Potato bars

One of the nice things that Dean Latham introduced at Grinnell is a series of events that are called Faculty Fridays [1]. Faculty Fridays provide an opportunity for faculty to get together at lunch time on Fridays and talk about an issue of mutual interest, often led by a speaker. I will admit that I had some initial frustration at Faculty Fridays; it’s not that I objected to the concept, it’s that they were announced about a week before the start of the semester, long after most people had made their schedules for the fall or even the year [2].

In any case, it’s nice to be able to talk about issues from colleagues around campus. For example, this past Friday I ended up sitting with brilliant folks from foreign language and philosophy. Since we move between small-group and large-group conversations, I also heard useful ideas from a wide range of people.

To help encourage us to attend Faculty Fridays, the College provides lunch. That makes sense; many of us don’t bring brown-bag lunches and, for whatever reason, the cafeteria will not allow faculty to do outtakes [3].

Which brings us to the subject of this musings, the potato bar.

I’m trying to watch my weight [4]. I think I have reasonable expectations for lunches: I try to find something moderately healthy, moderately tasteful, and relatively filling.

Now, let’s consider what’s available on the potato bar.

We begin with potatoes. I like potatoes. And potato skins may have lots of nutrients [5]. But I’m not sure that they are the best thing for me to eat while I’m watching my weight. I know some diabetics whose blood sugar skyrockets when they have a potato. I think that says something about the way the body processes those carbs.

Fortunately, Grinnell’s potato bar has broccoli. So I treat the potato bar as a broccoli bar. Now, what can I put on my broccoli. My doctor tells me that protein is probably the best bet for calories that keep me feeling full. The protein options are, um, bacon or cheese [6]. Those strike me as more fat than protein. I can also add tomatoes [7], scallions [8], olives [9], salsa [10], and sour cream [11].

Perhaps there are other healthy options? Just in case the potatoes don’t have enough carbohydrates, we have bread sticks as a side and brownies for dessert [14].

I appreciate Faculty Fridays. I appreciate the hard work that the CTLA folks put into both the event and the food. But I’d love a better option.

Didn’t President Kington start a healthy eating campaign a few years ago? How do potato bars fit into that initiative? Oh well, at least they are comparatively friendly to vegetarians and perhaps even vegans [15].

Postscript: I realize that I am in a position of privilege: I work in a job and institution in which people buy me meals. I am physically able to eat a wide variety of foods, including nearly everything that appears on the potato bar. I probably shouldn’t complain. It it weren’t so late at night, this musing might go in the discard pile. Instead, it can serve as a representation of my sometimes insufficiently reflective privilege.

[1] Although Dean Latham introduced Faculty Fridays and they were originally run by the Dean’s office, they are yet another instance of tasks that are now offloaded to the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Assessment.

[2] In particular, we had a long-standing tradition of having CS Table at lunch time on Fridays.

[3] I don’t remember what they call the take your lunch from the dining hall program. It’s had a few names over the years.

[4] Fortunately, my stomach is large enough that it’s easy to watch.

[5] My mother told me that they did; I never checked.

[6] Or both!

[7] I do.

[8] Those too!

[9] No olives. I like olives, but not in this context.

[10] Not quite the most sensible thing to put on broccoli, but still yummy.

[11] Sour cream is probably good on potatoes, but not particularly good on broccoli [12].

[12] I shouldn’t say that. I’ve never tried it.

[14] It’s easy for me to resist the brownies. It’s easy to resist the potatoes. Bread sticks are harder to resist.

[15] At least I hope they are.

Version 1.0 of 2018-01-29.