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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Friday, June 21, 2024

Dining Services spices things up with theme nights throughout semester

9/3/14 – Medford/Somerville, MA – Tufts sophomores, Tess Dennison, left, and Sarah Kotis, right, work on homework in Carmichael Dining Hall on September 3rd, 2014. (Nicholas Pfosi for USA TODAY)

Recently, student organizations including GlobeMed, Tufts Timmy Global Health and BUILD: India worked with Dining Services to host an event at Carmichael Dining Center called “A Taste of Global Health," according to Dining Services' Nutrition and Marketing Specialist Julie Lampie.

With the help of senior Matt Ryan, who serves on the executive board of Tufts Timmy Global Health, the dining staff at Carmichael Dining Center put together a meal featuring Guatemalan, Nepalese and Indian cuisine on March 5.

Dining Services puts together many theme nights at both Dewick-MacPhie Dining Center and Carmichael Dining Center during the school year, working alone or in coordination with outside groups, as was the case for "A Taste of Global Health."

Theme nights expose students to foods and cuisines they may not have tried otherwise, according to Patti Klos, director of dining and business services.

Lampie said that the theme nights generate a lot of enthusiasm on campus and offer students the opportunity to try new cuisines together.

“Food is about socialization,” she explained. “Not everyone is well-traveled or [has] tried new things.”

Lampie also explained that students and staff have the opportunity to try more unusual foods during these themed nights, such as oxtail and goat. Klos added that theme nights encourage students to socialize together around a special event.

“[Theme nights] provide an opportunity for students to rendezvous at the dining halls,” Klos said.

Klos explained, however, that theme nights are more than just an opportunity to try new foods and socialize on campus -- they can provide a space for dialogue about different issues and events.

“[The dining halls] are trying to be part of a collective experience because the students are so interesting," Klos said. "[The students] make it possible to do other kinds of things and be creative."

Previous theme nights have included “Balance your Plate,” sponsored by Food for Thought and the Eco Reps to promote sustainability on campus, a “Camp Carmichael” dinner that featured summer camp food, a Dim Sum Brunch to honor the Chinese New Year and the “Favorites Dinner” at the end of the year.

Klos explained that the inspiration for these events comes from many different sources and people. She recalled how the dining halls switched the Mardi Gras themed night to a Carnival themed night because some of the Brazilian staff saw the opportunity to make traditional Brazilian dishes served on the holiday. Klos credits the management team with its ability to organically create these theme night events.

Lampie said that theme nights give the dining staff an opportunity to develop something new in the kitchen, giving the staff creative license to try new dishes. She added that the staff enjoys getting dressed up for theme nights.

“The staff love creating special events; it creates a buzz with the students,” Lampie explained. “[Theme nights] bring great, authentically prepared food from their country, from Morocco to Jamaica to Somalia.”

Lampie explained that there are many ways in which the dining staff looks to improve the quality and diversity of its food. Over the summer, the dining staff creates new recipes and dishes and tests them with summer school students and staff.

Lampie called it the dining hall’s “test kitchen,” and explained that many of today's regular dishes started in the test kitchen, most notably Moroccan chicken, spaghetti Bolognese, and a multitude of vegetarian items.

Klos explained that in January, Tufts sends members of its dining staff to a workshop at Harvard University with dining hall employees from colleges in the New England area to discuss ways to improve the quality and diversity of food served at their respective institutions.

“We want the dining experience to be comfortable,” Klos said.

Lampie added that themed meals are never set in stone, and that students are always welcome to reach out to her if they have ideas for new dishes or cuisines. She noted that many students had been asking for avocado recently, so the intern at Carmichael made fresh guacamole for lunch one day this semester.

Klos also emphasized the importance of nutrition and dietary restrictions in planning these theme nights.

“We make sure all options are available, from vegan to gluten-free,” she said.

Lampie acknowledged that nutritional balance can be an issue with theme nights, as many cultural dishes are fried, but she noted that all of the dining halls' menus are nutritionally balanced.


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