Paresky Commons seemed to me then like a place every student would love to go. I remember being overwhelmed by the ample options, the variety of dishes, and the quality of the food when I dined there for the first time. Today, the dining hall is undoubtedly a fundamental part of Andover students’ lives, but I believe that its services have become largely ignored by students. Paresky has been there for students everyday of their lives at Andover, and it is crucial that students appreciate the services it provides for the community.
It disheartens me when I hear other people complain about the food at Paresky in a manner other than simply not liking a certain food. I have heard people say, “They didn’t really put much effort into lunch today,” and “I don’t like anything being served for dinner tonight,” and even, “I just don’t like Commons food.” Some students may genuinely dislike certain meals at Paresky because they are different from meals from home, which I understand and can relate to. The problem is that these comments often sound more disparaging than intended, and they insinuate that students are not grateful for the hard work put into our daily meals. Regardless of our intentions, complaining about the services Paresky provides for us is disrespectful. Even if we do not personally like a dish, the work done to prepare it for us should not be disregarded.
In addition to the meals they provide, I am also extremely grateful for Paresky’s attention towards students with allergies. Every meal served is marked with allergen warnings, or statements on whether a meal is free of a specific allergen. Since there are eight major allergens (peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, dairy, shellfish, gluten, and eggs), Paresky should be commended for serving meals that cater to such specific student needs. As a student with a severe peanut allergy, I feel so privileged and liberated to be able to choose any dish without worrying about whether it contains peanuts. This is especially true with the desserts served at Paresky. I have always had to be careful around baked goods, because I never knew if there had been cross-contamination with peanuts. Now, I am able to choose a dessert based solely on whether it looks appetizing to me.
I didn’t realize how much Paresky should also be appreciated for serving high-quality food until I went to a camp over the summer. While I thought the food was decent, there wasn’t much selection, and much of the food was premade rather than prepared on-site. To my surprise, many of my fellow campers adored the cafeteria for its variety of options and the quality of its food.
This experience forced me to step back and ask myself why I did not think as highly of the food as many of the others did. I realized that it was because I was used to the meals provided at Paresky, and that I had been spoiled by the quality, healthiness, and ample selection of food offered here. This is especially eye-opening given that Andover is a high school, and my camp was at a college. I realized how lucky I was to be able to make healthy, appealing choices at Paresky every day.
Appreciation can be displayed in many forms. Smiling at the chefs when you take your food and deciding to explore more options are just a few examples. I do not condemn students for disliking a particular dish Paresky makes based on personal taste, nor do I discourage treating yourself to eating takeout every once in awhile. I also understand that students can become so entangled with their lives at Andover that they forget to appreciate the food they eat every day. However, I encourage students to remember how much Paresky does for the Andover community. We are very lucky to have Paresky on campus, and the least we can do is be grateful for the opportunity to eat quality, healthy, wholesome meals.