Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Dining Hall

The USA Women's Field Hockey Team resumed preparation for the 2010 World Cup on January 11, 2010 at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, California. The first order on the menu is earning World Cup Qualification (the WC Qualifier will be held in Chula Vista, CA in March). And lets not fool ourselves, earning Qualification will be no casual stroll in the park; the team will face Pan Am rivals Canada and Mexico, European contenders Belgium and France, and Asian power Korea. So it should be no surprise when I say the team has been served a full plate, both literally and figuratively.

Speaking of full plates – you ought to see the OTC Dining Hall. You have to understand, the dining hall at the OTC is a special place – it’s a hub of daily activity with the primary purpose of fueling the bodies of focused, hard training athletes. Its secondary function is purely social – let me tell you, there is nothing like coming together over a good meal after a long day at the office.

Recently, the array of sports represented in the Dining Hall has been as varied as the daily salad bar – the assortment bobsledders, hockey players, rowers, jumpers, throwers, runners, soccer players, and more. It’s an interesting combination, and the dynamics of the interaction can be quite hysterical at times.

Typically, you walk in thru the left side doorway, casually scoping out the scene gathering and assessing essential information – seeing whom you know, whom you don’t, and where you can sit. After taking a quick peruse of the food bar, you make a decision on course number one. After setting your plate down at the round table of choice, you head to the drink bar. And man oh man is there a variety of drinks to choose from.

The rowers, for whom I have a developed a great affinity, introduced me to my new favorite dining hall game, Guess the Drink (over-taking the Top Five Game). Here is how the game works – one person, known as the drink maker heads to the drink bar and makes a drink by combining four ingredients. Curdling is not allowed in the drink, and sometimes, on the occasion of a late dinner, caffeine is prohibited.

Upon returning to the table, the maker gives the drink to the drinker. The drinker must identify all four ingredients without getting three strikes (a strike is given for each wrong guess). For the drinker, the decision-making process can become quite strenuous, especially in the event of well-blended combinations. A rule of thumb is to always check for carbonation.

Actually, my success rates are not as high as I would have hoped – as the drinker, my taste buds have not developed the acute and precise awareness of the separate ingredient tastes, and as the maker, I rarely stump astute taste buds of others, particularily Wes the Rower.

Individual success rates aside, the game is a triumph – it epitomizes the social energy of the dining hall. What is not to love about beautiful, healthy, fun, competive people enjoying one anothers company over a meal and a drink.

No comments: