Before attending Fairfield University as a student, I distinctly remember hearing about the beautiful Daniel and Grace Tully Commons and the wide range of mouthwatering breakfast foods and savory desserts encompassed within. As I listened eagerly to my best friend while she told me stories of her brother’s (a current junior at the University) experience with the Tully, my eyes grew wide.
I always imagined cafeteria-style food as subpar, never really craveable and mediocre. In other words, I always would prefer going out to a restaurant or eating a home cooked meal, in comparison to eating in my school cafeteria. These stories, however, did not align with my perception.
I was told of delicious pizzas on rotating spools, savory pancakes served with crispy home fries and ice-cold refreshments galore! I was told of festive decorations and tables of decorated cookies, brownies, cakes, pies and all of the rest of desserts you could possibly imagine to celebrate the holidays!
For someone who loves food, this all sounded too good to be true, and for a while it was.
At no fault of the wonderful staff here, let’s be honest, the Tully last semester was not as expected. Then again, nothing was as COVID-19 flipped our world upside down.
An optimistic conjecture of walking into a crowded cafeteria filled with a surplus of options of delicious foods quickly snapped into the reality of empty tables, shut down food stations, and what felt like a small variety of options. I especially remember the first week, I clung onto the little pasta cups they’d keep displayed in the fridge, as those were the only things I found appetizing.
Food trucks became the prime spot for dinner, as my friends and I could not even eat in the Tully together, separated by the dreaded Oak Room.
Don’t get me wrong, Fairfield did the best they could do given the situation. The staff worked harder than probably ever before, the way food was served had to completely change to align with COVID-19 guidelines, and it was a learning experience for everyone.
This semester, however, there is no doubt that the Tully has turned a new leaf. Never having experienced the pre-pandemic Tully atmosphere, I am already full of excitement to see what else is in store for the coming years!
The changes have been gradual and are still occurring. First, there was the addition of an avocado toast bar on Saturdays. Then, there was a glorious omelet bar, serving the best omelets I have ever tasted (I could eat a tomato, onion, spinach and cheese omelet everyday here without a doubt!) Now, there is even a TexMex bar, serving burrito bowls for lunch and dinner most days. All of it being absolutely scrumptious!!
Let’s not also forget about the deli station, offering a wide variety of bread, protein, vegetable and condiment choices. The option to toast your sandwiches has just been added as well within the past week and the additions of both chicken and tuna salad have been tossed on the menu! There’s also a wonderful salad bar offered for lunch and dinner, with fresh vegetables, protein, toppings, and dressings, as well as a simple serving station for those with special dietary needs.
The way the food has been served has changed too! Rather than prepackaged and proportioned meals, students are now able to choose what they want and in what serving amounts, as staff package the food individually for the student. Again, it is totally understandable why food had to be prepackaged in the past in regards to the safety of the students, however, I would be lying if I were to say I wasn’t over-the-moon about the returning to old ways.
Not only do I mean this in the sense of the food, which has surely gotten much better in variety and quality, but also the atmosphere in whole. Now that all students are able to eat in the Tully, community is a lot more apparent. I rarely ever go to the food trucks now, as I just love sitting in the Tully with my friends and seeing all the people.
It’s nice to hear voices again, as odd as that may sound. Everything being on Zoom for a while, or at least feeling that way, and the colder weather made the chance of seeing a good amount of people scarce. Now, however, there are always a bunch of smiling faces everytime I go to the Tully, whether it be breakfast, lunch or dinner.
Between the delicious food that just keeps expanding in variety, the atmosphere of both smiling staff and students, the sense of community, and the inclusiveness of all students, the Tully has become one of my favorite spots on campus. For the first time ever, I have actually had to keep track of my meal swipes making sure I do not run out before the week’s end.
I am beyond excited to see what else is in store as vaccinations continue to be dispersed and COVID-19 guidelines begin to relax. The Tully has already made so many incredible advancements and it’s been incredible to have those stories I heard so long ago start to become true again.