The untold story of cooking for 250 students

They didn't eat their veg when their mothers told them and they certainly weren't going to start now !

During the whole of my time at Brinsford (late 70's) the eating arrangements were based on eight to a table with food being served on a tray which people ferried back to the waiting mouths at the table. It was this communal eating which established the character of the place and you either loved it or loathed it. With its mixture of ritual (I can still see the soup queue 30+ years on!) the recreation of a "virtual" family life and the banter with the cooks - this was a fun way to meet your friends after a hard slog at college.

First up you'd have the race to be the front of the soup queue - fighting over that strange stuff that always tasted of oxtail even when it was brown or red. Served of course with some fine white, fibre-free bread. While that was being consumed with some element of greed the next willing drudge went up to queue for the main course. Just what could Roger conjure up today with his £2.50 per student per meal. The highlights of the kitchen are listed below although we'd welcome your memories of your favourite meal !

The evening meal was of course only one facet of the busy social whirl that was the Brinsford Dining Room. Remember the joy of breakfast after the social events. Who came into breakfast with who ? . Who never made it to breakfast ? Did you have any letters from your mother to embarass you ? There was of course the occasional frivolity as well - I can remember coming in one day and finding a small car in there . There were other activities of a more structured nature. The announcements of social events or official pronouncements over the tannoy. When given by the current BLSA chairman such announcements were usually greeted by a volley of roast potatoes.

There was one ritual that everyone who ever went to Brinsford faced. The first meal on the Sunday of the new term. You're all alone. Away from home. Absolutely-bloody-starving. No idea what to do - heck you're new and everyone else seems so old and experienced.If you're lucky you team up with the other new people in your block and you at least have some other people to sit with. Then comes the meal. I can still remember it nearly 40 years later. Salad, warm crisps and a cake !. Yup at weekends we got cakes - Mr Kipling's cakes to be precise. Work your way into the affections of the cooks and heck - you could get a whole box !

Other delights

There were of course other treats to be had in the dining room. Some of a culinary nature , others more cultural. Who can forget the following.

  • Chicken supreme
  • The lamb chops on Saturday lunchtime
  • Shepherds pie and chips
  • Jelly and those little wrapped ice-creams or Arctic Roll
  • Shepherd's pie and chips (buckets of them!)
  • The great British Breakfast Sausage (James T Lawton aka Jimmy Jazz must hold the record for the most consumed in one sitting)
  • That bacon (Yeuchhh)
  • Those Saturday night cardboard pizzas
  • Sunday roast - yehhaaa roast spuds to throw at the chairman !

And in other news

Say what you like about the food which with the benefit of hindsight was down to a budget but the cooks also did us proud at Christmas. The Christmas Dinner was the highlight of the calender.

The dining room was also the distribution point for that scurrilous rag -The Brinsford Times , which would appear at irregular intervals and dish the dirt on the student population by way of it's own Sunday supplement - The Lurker

From time to time other events included all of the following. The synchronised pelting of other tables with food. All out food fights. Regular birthday events which included the dumping of the slops bucket on people heads (including mine - banana and lime jelly shampoo anyone ? ) or dumping people in the sinks at the back of the kitchen.

To end

The dining room may well be remembered by many for Roger's gallant attempt at cooking to a limited budget. For me - it's the shared experience of eating together, the people I met - staff and student alike. The switch in Brinsford's final year to cafeteria style may well have been one last hurrah but for me it presaged the end of one of the things that made Brinsford special.

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