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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Dinner to-go

Published: February 4, 2011
Section: Opinions

GRAPHIC BY Leah Lefkowitz/The Hoot

When I first arrived at Brandeis last semester, I ate every meal in Usdan and every meal off a ceramic plate. I never specifically asked for a plate—I would simply order a burrito and the server would hand it to me on a ceramic plate. I had no problem with it at the time, until I figured out that there was something better.

A few weeks in, I began spotting kids around me putting their food in these white Styrofoam boxes. They would pick up a box from the stack in Upper Usdan and hand it to the server to put their sandwich in. I was intrigued by this concept. I had never seen to-go boxes before at Brandeis and I thought they were a neat idea, so I figured it couldn’t hurt to try.

And so one night, I boldly snatched a to-go box from the pile and I handed it to the server to put my food in. That night, my food tasted extra delicious. Maybe it was one of those rare nights when Brandeis food actually tastes good or maybe it tasted better because I was eating it out of the box.

It wasn’t a crazy idea—I felt like my chicken fingers were fresher in a sealed box, as opposed to on an open plate exposed to all the dust and germs floating in the air around us. And I haven’t gone back to ceramic plates since. Now, every time I walk into Usdan, before I even figure out what I’m going to order (and believe me, this takes a long time), I jet over to the to-go boxes and grab one. It’s a habit I probably will never be able to change during my three remaining years at Brandeis.

The other day, the server didn’t realize I had a to-go box and put my food on a plate. I reached out for the plate and burnt my hand, a reminder of why I have been using to-go boxes for the past five months. Once the plate cooled down, I carried it to the cash register leisurely. I worried that my food would slip off the plate, onto the floor. I was terrified that a friend of mine would give me a playful shove and my dinner would crash to the ground. The plates were so risky. I had been used to the safety of a protected Styrofoam box for five months. Now I held a delicate ceramic plate in my hands. The experience made me remember why I use to-go boxes on a daily basis.

Above all else, to-go boxes are convenient. They allow you the option of eating in Usdan or leaving and eating outside in the sun (or until the weather turns around, the snow). With ceramic plates, you are imprisoned in Usdan like a bird in a cage. You have to stay there until you finish your food and, if you happen to finish only half of it and then you realize you’re late to play practice, the food goes to waste as your stomach sheds a tear. With to-go boxes, your stomach does not have to sob. In fact, your stomach will thank you. You can stay in Usdan with your friends and then leave to do work or go to a club meeting, and you can bring your food with you. It’s up to you.

Part of the reason I personally prefer to-go boxes is because I’m lazy. I’ll admit that I do not want to have to walk all the way to the other side of Usdan just to put my plate on the conveyor belt (because 100 feet is so far). It’s a lot easier to just toss a to-go box into one of the many garbage cans around Usdan. And I guarantee a lot of people feel the same way as I do. Another reason I use to-go boxes is because the plates are incredibly fragile. If you drop a to-go box, your fries will probably be splattered in ketchup, but they’ll still be edible. And the box will be in tip-top shape (I am in fact suggesting you try this at Usdan!). But, if you drop a ceramic plate with food on it, the food will be the least of your worries. The plate will shatter into hundreds of tiny pieces and the sea of conversation around you will come to a screeching halt, until someone starts a slow clap and your face turns tomato red as you realize you have made a complete idiot out of yourself (this happened to a friend of mine in Sherman). Is that really worth it because you wanted to eat off a plate?

But the major appeal of to-go boxes is that, as the name suggests, they are to-go. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve taken food with me to my room or to do work in the library. Nor can I tell you how many times I planned on eating in Usdan but, at the last minute, changed my mind. To-go boxes afford you the opportunity to choose. To-go boxes are a symbol of freedom and liberty. To-go boxes bring Brandeis together and unify the entire campus towards a more efficient and convenient way of dining. To-go boxes are Brandeis.

Right now, it is rather trendy to use to-go boxes. Out of every 10 students I see on line at the cash register in Usdan, seven have to-go boxes. The few people that I see that choose not to use to-go boxes either don’t know they exist (much like I didn’t my first few weeks here), are weary about the environmental repercussions of using non-renewable resources (I guess they don’t know that the boxes are recyclable), have an intimate connection with plates or are just plain going against the grain. Either way, most Brandeis students use to-go boxes. And with good reason. They provide shelter for your food, and they’re convenient, environmentally-friendly and just plain fun to use.

At the end of last semester, Dining Services ran out of to-go boxes and provided plastic plates instead. But it just wasn’t the same. You need the cover on a to-go box to keep all the mosquitoes off your pasta. And to protect your food from the blizzard outside. And to cover it in case it happens to drop and flip upside down. So no, plastic plates were not a sound alternative to to-go boxes.

I think to-go boxes are one of the best things about Brandeis University. A quick survey of my friends at other colleges reveals that many other colleges do not provide students with the option of ordering their meals to-go. In that respect, Brandeis is a step ahead of the game. What I’m trying to say is: I am indeed a fan of dinner to-go.