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October 2020


Dear Abbot Pennings:

St. Norbert College is well known these days for its great dining options. But I've heard stories from our alumni about how that wasn't always the case. Is it true that students once protested the cafeteria food?

Eric Blumreich (College Advancement)


Dearest Eric,

Ah, a query that truly whets the appetite! As is the case for many, I’m quite certain, my senses are delighted in Ruth’s Marketplace, as I take in the wonderful fare that Dining Services has laid out before us. And who doesn’t enjoy an evening dining in Phil’s and Dale’s? Certainly, I cannot forget the enchanting aromas from Ed’s that drift my way.

Yes, Eric, you’re quite right: The dining options offered to our community today are simply delightful. Alas, some of our alumni were not quite as fortunate as they sat down to break bread in their days on campus.

Truth be told, at one point in the mid-1950s, students at our dear college were so appalled by the offerings, they staged what has since been referred to as a “food riot.” According to my dear friend, John Bayer ’57, the food at the time was terrible. John recalls that many students would eat “just about anything” without complaint – but he and his friend Dick Mitchell ’57 weren’t so easily persuaded. John and Dick organized the food riot, during which students passed up the college-provided food and instead consumed simply peanut-butter sandwiches and a glass of milk for breakfasts, lunches and dinners – all the while shouting the tagline for a dog food brand popular at the time. (“Eat Rival dog food! Arf, arf, arf!”) The food riot lasted two days.

I do recall the disruption causing some disgruntled feelings for college administrators. As for our hard-pressed kitchen staff, I'm afraid the incident was distressing for them, too. But, as for his part in the food riot, my dear John was pleased. He shared with us recently: “After two days ... we got a whole new crew coming in to cook for us. It worked out very well.”

Dare I say, things have only continued to improve since then! In fact, I feel compelled to share with you, my dear Eric, St. Norbert College recently was ranked No. 4 for best college food in the nation. And it’s not just the delicious cuisine that makes dining at our college such a wonderful experience: Many of our dear students list dining services staff as those whose remarkable hospitality makes them feel truly at home on our campus. Here at St. Norbert, our dining services staff not only nourish our bodies, but our souls.

Goodness, I’m afraid I must take my leave. Admittedly, all this talk about our campus foodstuffs has me aching for some sustenance (and I’m starting to smell something delicious brewing over at Ed’s).

Responses to “Ask the Abbot” questions are penned by St. Norbert College staff in the name of Abbot Bernard Pennings, who founded St. Norbert College in 1898. 

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