Why school cafeteria food is good for you.
Story by: Giovanni Cioffi
Jöns Jacob Berzelius (1779-1848) was one of the the first professors at Karolinska Institutet and gave the university its scientific orientation. On campus there is a street and a lecture hall named after him, but for most students at KI, his name Jöns Jacob reminds them of something else: the Solna campus restaurant.
It is Monday morning and the sky is that of a typical late September day: a very light gray screaming that fall is coming. After rushing through my morning routines, I run downstairs and get my bike. Intense time calculations about different routes follow – I need to get to campus early as I have not had coffee yet.
Biking through the entry gates and past the somewhat oversized plaque spelling out the university’s name and year of foundation I feel relieved. I made it.
I leave my bike outside Jöns Jacob, the most popular restaurant among students on campus. I get my coffee and spot some familiar faces walking towards the lecture halls. Time to move.
After a few lectures, breaks and casual chatting about the past weekend, it is time for lunch. The eternal question and major cause of conflict among a group of friends at lunch time seems to be ”Where are we going to eat?”. Some have a lunch box while others do not. Some are going to eat at Jöns Jacob and others will not.
A few of us have made up our minds. We get a table.
As a Swedish podcaster once said ”Some restaurants master the ability to find intricate names for very simple dishes. The best at this is by no doubt Jöns Jacob. There you get really exciting exotic names for a sausage and potatoes.”
The company that owns Jöns Jacob is known for running school cafeterias across the country. The cafeteria-style food clashes with the academic and high-tech environment, creating ironic discrepancies between Michelin star-worthy menus and high school flashback-causing food. Which is charming in itself. Also, french-named sausages and potatoes sound better than the mush I have in my lunch box.
It has become the hub of the university, a place everyone passes through between intense mornings and afternoons
Lunch break is a fundamental part of every school day. It is a chance to breathe out, cool off and switch from the fast pace of the lectures and labs to silly jokes and discussions with friends.
Jöns Jacob is the embodiment of the rowdy quietness that lunch breaks represent – recess is meant to be quiet, but the restaurant at noon is anything but that. It has become the hub of the university, a place everyone passes through between intense mornings and afternoons. Students from different programs and cities within and outside of Sweden get together to enjoy a ”Baked pollock Vera-Cruz”. I doubt there are any KI-graduates at the Solna Campus who do not have plenty of memories from the place that has come to be known as ”Jönsan”.
Cafeteria food is indeed good for you because lunch breaks are not just about the food. Bland sausages and potatoes are great because they are so unmemorable, they will not steal your attention. They will stay put, quiet in their dish, while you look around and explore your surroundings. The fancy dish names only add to the entertainment of the experience, and you can just sit there, enjoying the moment and feeling like a small, yet thriving, fish in a big pond.