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Orange Juice and Other Things We Take for Granted in the Food World...

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Monday, March 16, 2009

Orange Juice and Other Things We Take for Granted in the Food World...

As promised, more about the funny OJ picture I posted.

There are assorted DFACs (Dining FACilities) scattered among the base. Different foods, different hours, different dining atmospheres. Most of the time I'm eating from the dining hall near my workplace 1-2 times per day...and it was never eating in the chow hall. I'd eat during my duty shift and I can't be away from the desk for too long...so I get the food to go and eat in the darkness of my workstation.

I eat my largest meal at about 1:30am, a dinner-like meal (called "Midnight Meal") and then I pick up some breakfast not long after sunrise. Sometimes I grab the breakfast foods during my midnight meal and just have some cereal and milk at my desk. I turn in in the mid-afternoon for a "night's" sleep and if I felt hungry, I'd have a snack of some sort, like an apple, some yogurt, or if I was really hungry, a 6" Subway Club sandwich on Parmasean Oregano bread.

Did I mention that my dorm is right behind a Subway? I treated myself once a week the first few weeks, but I haven't been at all in the month of March.

In the DFAC there are a lot of choices...imagine what you see in a college dining hall. There's a main course that's usually pretty "comfort foody", like roast beef and mashed potatoes, or chicken parmasean, or perhaps fried catfish with hush puppies. Then you have other options, such as a full salad bar, fresh fruit bar, deli bar and breakfast bar. And it's a serious breakfast bar, comprable to a Shoney's or full service hotel breakfast bar.

Also, you have a short-order grill, making awesome omelettes for breakfast, and serving up burgers and grilled chicken sandwiches at lunch/dinner/midnight.

Sidebar about the omelettes. They're outstanding. The military dining halls seem to have this special way to make their omelettes...paper-thin egg layer filled with the goodies, then wrapped in the egg like a burrito. Or a crepe. I haven't had an omelette lately (cholesterol concerns), so I'm going to show you pictures of the ones I've made for my family on our flat griddle as an example of what we get here. So yummy!


From 2008 01 23 Assorted Cooking

From 2008 01 23 Assorted Cooking


Did I mention the desserts? Lots of great options, Breyer's ice cream, European-style gelato, baked goods galore. Seasonal fare:


From 2009 02 14 AUAB V-Day Cake


A lot of food. It's tempting to eat full meals for 3 meals a day. Like the college dining hall experience, having everything prepared for me might make it easy to gain weight, like I did in college!

The food quality is decent, I guess. I'm again comparing it to a college dining hall experience, and in my case, Penn State's dining hall is my frame of reference. Not a 5-star Zagat's experience, but definitely not bad either.

Since we have it quite well here in so many other ways, such as this wireless connection with which I'm blogging to you, I'm going to avoid complaining too much about our food quality. Oftentimes, they're serving foods I simply don't like: stroganoff, baked fish, well-done steaks, etc.

Note: You might have heard on the news about "Kellogg, Brown and Root" food and construction services, and some of the contracting scandals in the past several years related to how they're owned by Halliburton/Richard Cheney. We do not have KBR food service here, it's offered in Iraq and Afghanistan and from what the Airmen tell me, it's very outstanding.

Anyhow, there are also some basic staples that are in such high demand, food services had challenges keeping it in stock for us. Orange juice is the first example. I saw assorted fruit juice boxes for us my first day here. Some stray mango and strawberry juices. Someone mentioned that the orange juice boxes are good, too. I didn't help myself to any on the first day, not realizing that I wouldn't see those juices again in the dining hall for 60 days!

There's a machine that dispenses juices from concentrate, but the output wasn't very good. At my first attempt at orange juice from that machine, I heard the glop, glop glop of the concentrate chunks plopping into my glass, and I was morified! On occasion we'd have apple juice or cranberry juice from concentrate and I would just mix the too-concentrated output from the machine with some water. That was good enough and fulfilled my fruit juice craving.

I'd mentioned a couple weeks ago my excitement at getting some orange juice when I went to the Carefour store off base. Starting on March 10th, these cute little baby cartons appeared in the beverage cases in our dining halls here. YAY! And it's my favorite kind, super-pulpy!


From 2009 03 18 OJ
We get milk here in the form of little 8 oz. bottles (actually, I think it's 225 ml). Whole, 2%, skim, chocolate and strawberry. It's all very good, but my stomach has a hard time with other-than-skim milk, so I stick with skim in my cereal. Or a bottle with my dinner.
Apparently I'm not the only one who prefers skim milk, we run out about 1-2 days per month. That's a little frustrating because it's very important to me to keep up with my calcium. But of course I survive!
I've started getting pretty creative in my meals lately -- they've fully cycled through the menus here several times. Tonight I made a BLT sandwich: lettuce, tomato, wheat bread from the deli bar, some bacon from the breakfast bar. That was quite tasty.
Earlier this week I had a breakfast burrito. I asked the short-order grillmaster to scramble me an egg with a sausage patty chopped up into it, with some tomato and green pepper. Served it up in a tortilla wrap with some salsa. That's a also very good.
I think I've grown weary of not knowing exactly what's in my food. Call me a control freak: when I'm cooking at home, I make a point to know the ingredients of everything I make, but when faced with a dining hall serving up comfort foods like chicken-fried steak with pepper gravy, you don't know any more about what's going into you than at a diner. The food might be super-yummy at times, but I simply can't make a habit of it.
I work a desk job, I sit on my butt for 75-90% of my time on shift. I make a point to work out 5-6 times per week, so I'm not gaining weight, but I'm definitely not losing weight either.
Like the laundry -- having the food cooked for me, while it's great for the Lazy Lady side of Major Mom, leaves me with a loss of control. I cannot wait to be home again to cook for the family and myself!

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