Considering the entire serving section of this cafeteria could fit into some walk-in closets, UBC-Okanagan’s main dining hall offers a passable variety of chow. In addition to the expected burgers and fries, we had the choice of pizza, semi-made-to-order pasta or stir-fry, the featured entree (turkey dinner was on), pre-made sandwiches and sushi, or a small but fresh-looking salad bar complete with organic alternatives. The students crammed into the compact kitchen during the dinner hour seemed happy enough with the options—perhaps because the closest grub to the isolated campus is at the Kelowna airport.
We steered clear of the shining pre-made sushi after noting an Ontario address on the label and instead ordered small servings of pasta and turkey, which both turned out substantial. The gravy-smothered turkey ($6.99) was good enough, and came with nondescript steamed veggies and surprisingly palatable scalloped potatoes. The tasteless ground beef in my pasta—pre-boiled rotini with rosé sauce for $4.89—seemed like an odd choice in an otherwise acceptable dish. Extra points for real parmesan.
After waiting about 20 minutes while a cook slowly wiped dirty pans and refilled containers with pre-cooked chicken, we were finally presented with a shrimp stir-fry; halal chicken is also available. The red Thai sauce turned out to be the highlight of the dish ($6.99), with its rubbery shrimp and uncooked broccoli and cabbage.
Feasting on a slice of four-cheese pizza ($3.99), I was overcome with a sensation of familiarity. The bready crust and greasy cheese evoked memories of cafeteria meals past. And looking around, I realized that we were all taking in an archetypal dining experience that is reproduced at schools across the continent, by cafeteria conglomerates such as Aramark. The sole selection that lent UBC-O’s offerings distinction was fresh fruit advertised as being from presumably local Gamble Farms, a shout-out to the campus’s Okanagan Valley locale.
Uninspired—but does the job.