College reunions can be fun, but the food offerings at these gala events can be the pits.
At Washington University in St. Louis, MO, where I graduated in 1965, the alumni office staff worked hard to find out what their returning 50-year reunion graduates couldn’t eat. Then the staff forgot to pass this information on to the university’s food vendor, Au Bon Pain.
Au Bon Pain was responsible for continental breakfasts in the dormitory where many of the alumni stayed during the reunion. The fare consisted of too-sweet pastries, bagels, some yogurt, OJ and coffee. No non-caffeine herbal teas were available, and no fresh fruit. Although the weather in St. Louis was chilly, no one thought to add hot-chocolate packages.
Other meals offered to my group were much the same, except for one breakfast on the campus with a buffet that included eggs, bacon, and some fruit. Luncheons were sandwiches and salads.
Most dinners included overcooked chicken.
Baseball food and funny water
For those who cared, as I did, the reunion included a St. Louis Cardinals baseball game with baseball food – hot dogs, chicken wings, hamburgers, macaroni and cheese, bratwurst, nacho chips with a warm cheese sauce, and cookies. Water from the sinks and soda nozzles in the new Cardinals baseball stadium tasted funny, like it was crossed with seltzer water. No bottled water was available.
At the Chancellor’s luncheon, the main course was a salad, with no alternatives.
For the final dinner at The Saint Louis Club in Clayton, MO, the food was late being served and then the courses came slowly. A classmate at my table needed to eat and was becoming ill. I rescued her with some bread from another table. We both had tags indicating food allergies. Hers were ignored.
I was offered a bowl of cold canned soup instead of a lettuce salad. My entrée, filet of halibut, was served overcooked and cold. I looked around and saw other diners turning it away. No alternatives were offered. Dessert came more than a half hour after the entrée.
Missing at every meal were fresh fruits and vegetables. Orange juice doesn’t help me because I’m allergic to it. Little bits of vegetable garnishes are insufficient. For me, a lack of greens causes painful leg cramps. For everyone, lots of carbohydrates are fattening and not healthy.
Doing it right
To be fair, my husband, George, reported a totally different food experience when he went to his 50th class reunion at WU two years ago. He said the food was good, and choices were always available so he could dine around his personal diet issues.
We can’t account for the difference. Was it a staff turnover at the alumni office, leading to a loss of institutional memory? Didn’t anyone keep records from year to year? Did my class have a less creative committee of alumni participating in the reunion planning? Who knows?
I can say that if I ever attend another such reunion, I will question the people planning it closely beforehand. It’s not enough to tell them what I can’t eat; I need to tell them what I must have and insist that they provide it – or else I’ll stay home.
Up in the air
When I arrived in St. Louis for the reunion, a longtime friend met me at the airport and took me to St. Louis Bread Company, where the soup and pastries are always good. I bought a pastry to take to the dorm room where I was staying. I should have purchased more.
Otherwise, the food situation en route to and from the reunion was a series of annoyances.
Airport concourses these days are full of food options, but when you can’t walk long distances and must depend on a wheelchair, strolling the concourse to explore your options isn’t feasible.
Leaving Miami at 4:30 AM to begin my journey to St. Louis, the skycaps with wheelchairs weren’t working yet. My husband went into the airport where wheelchairs were available, but the staff there said they were only for indoor use. He commandeered one anyway, rolled it outside, and rolled me inside. I arrived in plenty of time, but the person rolling me to my plane took so long that I was the last person aboard.
In the Dallas-Fort Worth airport, my wheelchair driver stopped for me to buy a Boar’s Head ham and cheese sandwich, pre-made. I had to remove the lettuce. It was dry, and the one little package of mayo that came with it wasn’t enough.
For my flight home, another St. Louis friend made me a marvelous sandwich, plus pickles and Hershey bars, so I didn’t have to depend on the vagaries of airport food.
Overall, I enjoyed my class reunion and the opportunity to see old friends again, but I was glad to get home and regain control of my diet.
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