Cappuccino and an aria


A lot of people are complaining about catering at TU/e, and about the prices in particular. You do have a choice though: you can also bring your own sandwiches or soup. But then you might miss the smiles of the cheerful staff.

At first it was an unusual sound on Monday morning. But after a few consecutive Monday mornings, I’ve gotten used to it and even look forward to it: the aria. While most people walking the Limbopad on Monday morning look a bit lackluster, either going over the weekend in their heads or already thinking about the work week ahead, one of the catering colleagues walks into work singing at the top of her lungs. Headphones on, closed off from the rest of the world, enjoying the music.

Such cheerfulness on Monday morning. I wish I had that.

Lately, a lot of people have been complaining about catering at TU/e, and about the prices in particular. And I’ll be the first to admit I sometimes do so too. But I have a choice: I could also bring my own sandwiches or soup. Coffee and tea are free if I get it from the machine. And yes, I do hate it when I mindlessly choose an egg salad or fake chicken curry sandwich and half of it falls into my lap when I bite into it. That never happens with one of those simple ham rolls glued together by butter.

You’ve got your work cut out for you as a member of catering staff. Wheeling trollies of coffee, tea and water into cramped elevators and down long hallways. And when you come back later to collect the dirty dishes, the serving platters have disappeared: taken to another room after the meeting. Or worse yet: dropped off at the study association to get rid of the leftovers. And don’t get me started on those complex orders where you have to take all kinds of dietary requirements into account: vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, lactose-free or halal. Or a combination of the above.

You wouldn’t be able to tell by looking at the catering staff in Atlas, where I get most of my sandwiches, soups, and coffees. They’re cheerful, kind, and obliging, despite a lot of them having had to change employers various times over the years following tenders where new caterers came out on top. It must be a tense affair, all of those changing standards when it comes to sustainability, the ban on single-use plastics, fake chicken curry instead of the real deal, oat or soy milk instead of cow’s milk. But whichever caterer you work for, you still end up lugging around clean and dirty dishes and cutlery.

Having said all that, there’s no better start to the week than having a cappuccino from the food court on Monday morning. With a smile and, if you’re lucky, an aria as a prelude.

Annemarie van Malsen is a communications officer at TU/e’s Department of Industrial Design. The views expressed in this column are her own.

Share this article