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First look: The Cave


The C-Store was loosely what I expected it to be: a small convenience store in the American style, with rows of frozen pizza and Lean Cuisine across from Skippy peanut butter and instant ramen. Bagged snack food occupied almost the entire left wall, giving it the appearance of movie theater vending.


What made me smile: the presence of the basics. Items I’ve often wished for when cooking — olive oil, sugar, flour, and even spices like thyme, cumin, and cinnamon — took up the far right wall. Driscoll’s blackberries and trustworthy yogurt brands made their appearance. A rave of limes was joined by a little conga line of red bell peppers. Two onions sat still-life style. They were a nice showpiece. The relative prevalence — note relative — of gluten-free and dairy-free pastas, pizzas, and cookies was heart-warming.


But what jolted me? Caffeine. At first, the self-serve coffee station struck me as laughable. Why offer Peace coffee when the Cage serves it right upstairs? Then I realized: this is for after the Cage shuts down at 8:00 p.m. Consider the multiple floor-to-ceiling doors stocked with energy drinks and pre-packaged Starbucks “mochas” — note: I’m a barista, that’s not a mocha to my eye. As if that isn’t enough, wander past the protein bars — well-varied but, like the gelato, four times the usual cost — to the check-out. What do you find? More 5-Hour Energy shots than there are students in my largest course. Next to them, a little basket of Awake coffee chocolates.


You have to question, at this point, if St. Olaf’s claims of prioritizing health and wellness over academic excellence are true. These products affirm a food culture I’m increasingly disgruntled with — one that pushes you to work through lunch, through dinner, through sleep. To work, work, work.


I think replacing these caffeine items with more globally diverse products — giving international students a sense of home-away-from-home — and basic cooking supplies would encourage a nourishment of body and soul. Cooking is such a healthy way to appreciate not only the fertile gifts of the earth but the joy in flavor itself. Cooking is deeply rooted in heritage as well. Hence, self-prepared meals tend to carry more ritual. When there is ritual, there is resistance to the fast pace of academic life. You see yourself as neither your consumption nor your production. You are human; you are excellent for this fact, not for any night-time cramming.


Olivia Hebblewhite is from Waunakee, Wis. 

Her majors are English and environmental studies.

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