It seems, however, that this kind of food - the cause of so much post-traumatic distress - is being left in the freezer. Dijon-crusted chicken, cheese quasadillas, and sauteed spinach are now being plated in university dining halls.
Colleges nationwide have been innovating. Stanford offers “spa waters,” mineral water with cucumber, watermelon, mint and other flavors. The University of Massachusetts at Amherst shares guest chefs with eight colleges. Yale has an organic cafe. Brown has a farmers’ market. At Wheaton College in Illinois, low-carbon meals use local and organic food; students can choose Thursday dinners illuminated only by the lights outside.
“The food is part of meeting the expectations of those enrolled and those who are going to choose you,” said Steve Thomas, director of admissions at Colby College in Waterville, Me. “We budget $15,000 a year just for meal tickets for prospective visiting families and students.”
Modern college students have a savvier palate than their parents:
Mr. Johnson said students expect to eat the way they do in a restaurant: “We discovered a way in the marketplace concept — kitchens brought out from behind the wall, cooking platforms with pizza ovens, broilers, fryers — so students can see you throw the dough, top it to order and put it in the wood-fired oven. And they don’t just want that product in name only, but they want it to be authentic, because they’ve eaten at Wolfgang Puck’s restaurant and they want to smell that hickory wood burning.”