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Students discuss special seasonal decorations, menus at dining halls

(Ashley Ko/Illustrations Director)

By Angelina Alkhouri

Dec. 15, 2023 11:33 a.m.

Normally, when students enter De Neve residential restaurant, they are greeted with the sight of the dining hall’s large pizza ovens.

But for one month a year, they instead enter to find lights, poinsettias, hanging honeycomb paper balls and giant ornaments.

The decorations are not the only seasonal variation to UCLA Dining’s provision, with menus including “bloody ribs” and candy on pizza during Halloween as well as turkey, pumpkin pies and mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving. UCLA Dining also serves gingerbread and cranberry orange pastries as part of its December seasonal variation.

Some students expressed excitement toward the seasonal changes in the dining menus.

Mia Gregg, a first-year English student, said she enjoys the dining hall’s holiday theme because it reminds her of home as she prepares for winter break.

“It makes me feel more festive, and it makes me want to be done with finals,” she said. “It reminds me of happy times with my family.”

She added that some of her favorite holiday items include Halloween-themed hot dogs that were wrapped in puff pastry to look like mummies.

The menus evoked a sense of festivity and encouraged her to explore novel combinations, Gregg said.

In an emailed statement, UCLA spokesperson Sharon Han said the menus are developed six months in advance, adding that they are designed to ensure dining options do not become too monotonous.

Myracle Franco, a third-year biology student, said she also appreciated the decorations at the De Neve dining hall. Han said in the statement that the UCLA Housing and Dining team donates decorations to share with the campus community.

Tomer Shaked, a first-year psychology student, said he thinks the decorations and new menus help him to get excited ahead of the holiday season.

“I never really got to enjoy those special holidays because I’ve always been busy with school. Now that I have a social group and friends to go with, and we all go to the dining halls, … those dining halls make it special … because it’s that feeling of the holiday,” he said.

While some students were enthusiastic about the holiday celebration, others appreciated the changing themes without feeling particularly impacted.

Daniel Yang, a third-year computer science student, said although his visits to dining halls are too brief to note seasonal variations, he admires the decorations the UCLA Dining team has put up in order to create a positive experience for students.

Some students said they also like how UCLA Dining has embraced other cultures this year.

April Tello, a second-year biology student, said she appreciated De Neve serving a Peruvian dish, lomo saltado – consisting of meat, soy sauce and fries – that she traditionally enjoys with her family. She added that as someone who is Peruvian, she appreciated the chance to enjoy a taste of home.

Yang said he also enjoyed when Bruin Plate hosted a South American-themed food night because it exposed him to dishes he had not tried before.

“They also had a lot of star fruit. I didn’t know what they tasted like, and so I thought it was a good way to mix things up,” he said.

Yang added that his favorite memory of holiday food at the dining halls involved eating dumplings and noodles last year during Chinese New Year.

Franco said she also thought the variety of food offered on a seasonal basis demonstrates the talent of UCLA dining staff.

“You can see how creative our school likes to be with our food,” she said.

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Angelina Alkhouri
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