How To Survive Hall
Come 6pm, most Cambridge halls get quite serengheti. This doesn’t mean however that you would be better off with your bag of Hovis and petite marm…BRYONY GLOVER tells us how to stake your territory and survive hall.
Eating is great. Or at least, it’s supposed to be.
But, inevitably, there will be times when you just can’t face that mountain of stringy beans served in Hall. You could cook for yourself – but if you’re anything like me, the result would be far from delicious. Or nutritious. If you’re tired of toast, here’s how to make Hall food glorious…
1) Avoid the vegetables.
Yes, you’re aware you’re going to die of scurvy any minute, but after a hard day of lectures the last thing you need is a plateful of cold broccoli. Or soft cauliflower with brown patches. Potatoes are good – boiled, fried or made into those crunchy curls. Kid yourself they count as one of your five a day and one of your many problems will be over.
A small price to pay for hall bliss…
2) The early student catches the pudding.
There’s nothing more depressing than watching the person in front of you happily take the last chocolate sponge. Once the hot deserts are gone, you have to rely on fruit or yoghurt. This is tolerable for a day or so – especially if you follow the advice of (1) – but it’s hardly sustainable. Arrive early to avoid disappointment.
3) Sacrifice your friends.
Obviously, you don’t want to be eating by yourself, pretending to be incredibly interested in your phone/book/food to mask your crushing loneliness, but pick your friends carefully. If you go with too many, you’ll be held up for ages as they pile up their plates, and they might just turn out to be the treacherous Pudding-Thieves. If you’re lucky enough to be popular, subtly establish your position at the front of the group as you approach Hall, and it will only be natural when you end up head of the queue.
To survive hall, you must be ruthless
4) Be keen at Formals.
If there’s no seating plan, turn up in plenty of time in order to win this game of musical chairs. If you’re still standing when everyone else is seated, you will become the main focus of attention until the food arrives. Choose a chair, and stick to it.
5) Decipher the Formal menu.
The website may try to seduce you with descriptions of “Locally Hot Smoked Tout with Horseradish Crème Fraiche” – but be warned. You may very well end up with some creamy gloop slopped onto a dry old fish. The same goes with the sides: just because Brussels sprouts are caramelised and served with almonds, they are not suddenly delicious. It means they are hiding. Translate the menu, and only spend your money when you know what you’re getting.
6) Hide your food.
If you do make the mistake of being presented with indigestible Walnut and Fresh Prawn Jalousie, chop it up a bit and push to the side of the plate. Decide whether it looks smaller compressed into a pancake, or piled up into a tower, and stick any other unwanted food in there too. Then when the waiter comes, they’ll appreciate your decent effort and won’t be so offended.
Hide food with this handy Bentley’s ‘Hide Food’
7) Pace yourself.
You’ve just forked out for a formal, so you need to eat as much as possible to get the best value. When you start to feel full, make small talk and drink some more wine. Go slow. Then you can manage every last spoonful of pudding.
With any luck, you’ll soon be on the path to gastronomical delight.