Learning to diversify DH food through social media

by Ana Londono / Beacon Correspondent • September 30, 2015

While some wait in line to collect the daily options of meat, starch, and vegetable, other students are working their way around to multiple stations adding beans from one, grilled chicken from others, and more to create a more unique dinner option.

Some students think that there are no healthy options at the dining hall, but there are ways to work around the stations. What may seem to some as standard food with a lack of variation, Adam Settlage wants to expose the true potential of the available ingredients.

Settlage, a sophomore performing arts major, created an Instagram account earlier this semester. Through @emersondhhacks, he exposes the difficulty of living under a meal plan. However, he uses his quest for eating healthy to make up daily gourmet dishes out of typical ingredients found in the dining hall.

Settlage said he started his account at the beginning of this semester after an incident in the dining hall that left him with cravings. He said that he really wanted a chicken-bean wrap but this was not available at the sandwich station. He decided to order a chicken wrap, and add his own ingredients. From the salad bar, he took beans, spinach, sliced cherry tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, chickpeas, and feta cheese.

“After making a great dish, I decided to make something out of it and created an Instagram account,” Settlage said.

Since then, Settlage usually posts once every day, as he and most on-campus students, depending on their meal plan, have a daily swipe into the dining hall.

Settlage said he has a love/hate relationship with the Emerson eatery. He criticizes it by naming dishes with jokes or puns, such as “the classic ‘DH not having fruit’ breakfast sandwich.” However, he said he cares about eating healthy, and with a few tricks, he is able to do this.

“I think the dining hall lacks the variety that you find on bigger campuses,” Aaron Kenigsberg, a sophomore performing arts major and Settlage’s suitemate said. “Sometimes it’s hard to find healthy options that are not in the salad bar.”

Kenigsberg is not the only one. Sophomore journalism major, Ke Na said she also has had disappointment in some of the choices offered.

“I don’t eat at the dining hall because there is no diversity in the food,” Na said. “If I had a meal plan, I would get bored of eating the same thing day after day.”

Settlage said his goal is to come up with something different that you can’t get at the dining hall with ingredients that are not generally used but are always accessible. For example, since fettuccini is not always available, he has used rice noodles from the vegan station and chicken from the wrap station to create his favorite dish, chicken pesto fettuccini. He said he generally starts with one ingredient and builds up on that

“Dining hall hacks is awesome for people who are tired of the regular food at the DH,” Kenigsberg said. “It’s definitely easy to fall into a rut, and [Settlage’s] account is a fun way to spice things up.”

The account had a following of over 120 as of Tuesday. Settlage said he said that he hopes to continue to grow and eventually make an impact on the Emerson community. To promote his account, he says he has mainly told his close friends and has posted his Instagram pictures through Facebook.

He said he takes all of his pictures, stating that he tries to get the best lighting since he really cares about presentation, using his phone to capture the best shot of the creation of the day.

Settlage says he would like to continue with this project until he graduates. When he does, he is interested in passing it on to someone else.

“[I want to give] people a better understanding on how to eat food here at Emerson,” Settlage said. “Hopefully, people will want to make themselves their own dishes, or the dining hall will realize that a greater variety of food is something people want. As the dining hall evolves, I hope there will be more ingredients and more recipes to make.”