Commons Reflection from a First-Year


Kat Merisois

Student members of CHEWS share their recommendations for managing stress during finals week.

Commons. The place where we all spend many hours of our day. Maybe at one point, 24! It has only been one semester, and yet hundreds of hours of my life have passed there. I learned a lot even after only three months at Bates. I discovered my surprising appreciation for the gluey pancakes before 9:00 a.m. classes, and I grew a deep affinity for the brick oven–as long as it’s not serving any kind of pizza. 

Most importantly, I developed the beverage that I have with each meal. I fill a tall cup with orange juice a little over halfway, then I top off with cranberry juice until the color resembles a delightful grapefruit juice. And the flavor, at least I’ve convinced myself, is grapefruity as well! What a magical world we live in. Bright citrus meets bitter cranberry for the perfect fresh grapefruit flavor. Try it.

In terms of breakfast, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays are exciting mornings, ones with guaranteed pancakes–the pumpkin being my favorite (how seasonal–all winter long?–and fun!). They are simultaneously dense, slightly undercooked, and entirely non-nutritious. Bobcat pop tarts come about once a month. The first, a sundae in September, was a splendid surprise and I consumed one while filling my plate and three more along with my brunch. The second appearance was the last morning of our fall break and sadly my travel plans did not line up. Don’t worry, I tried to move my flights to make it in time, but alas. These special, rare treats are definitely just the thin-crust pizza dough baked with cinnamon sugar and drizzled with some icing, but nonetheless, that dough undergoes a magnificent transition. 

Similar flavor profiles include the cinnamon scones that make a fun appearance at brunch and the lovely cinnamon rolls which always satisfy and can be microwaved if they are not fresh and hot.

Ice cream. My pride and joy. The reason I chose Bates. Hot take: Sundae Sunday is overrated. The ice cream is all overrun (a fancy word that means it was frozen while being whipped too fast so there are too many air bubbles so then as your scoop melts it creates that unpleasant sort of foam). And the line that forms because of the impossible scoop ability of the gallons means that I usually go for the soft serve. The double chocolate fro-yo really does have some flavor complexity that the normal chocolate lacks. And the pineapple fro-yo is highly comparable to Dole whip. 

My daily ice cream is usually the twist in a large, wide bowl with a sugar cone, and the chocolate syrup from the milk zone. Then you crush the cone and enjoy it with any other toppings of your choosing! Ta-da, almost a Ben & Jerry’s Americone dream, and maybe you could even go so far as to stir in some peanut butter swirls… 

The benefit of Sundae Sundays is definitely the hot fudge and abundance of topping options. My last suggestion is to make a sort of float with hot cocoa, soft serve flavor of your choice, and marshmallows from the coffee zone.

In terms of the spice rack, I had high hopes. They were only a little dashed. Some of the shakers I suspect do not have as high of a turnover as others so the flavor they offer is fairly dulled and staled over time. But I can periodically enjoy old bay on my fries and maybe I’ll try out the celery salt or the nutritional yeast one day. My favorite way to punch up the flavor is the salad dressing zones. Take advantage of the honey mustard and the pesto and the vinegar and the sriracha! And on special days when it crops up, use the Mae Ploy Sweet Chili Sauce!!

Lastly, my quick tips: Check the toaster settings before blindly sending in your bagel halves on the ride of their lives. There may or may not be croissants in the fridge. Only use the waffle station if you are okay with uber-crispy waffles. The chicken noodle soup is good, otherwise, defer to the @RealCommonsSoupReviews. If you can, drink the milk, it is from a local dairy and while you may think a milk alternative is better for the planet, almonds take a ton of water to grow and even more energy to ship cross country… 

Don’t be deceived by the excitement of seeing Ethiopian beef ribs, they are more like well-seasoned-saucy-beef-bits and there is no injera to be found, but who can blame them, it is Maine. Try oatmeal with brown sugar and some half-and-half. 

And lastly, the apple cider dispenser has re-opened for business, and don’t forget that the sour tinge is because Maine UV-treats their cider instead of the pasteurization your home state may use.