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Good Eats

Good EatsForTufts’ director of dining services, keeping up with foodand diet trends among students is a fun but demanding job.Medford/Somerville,Mass. [08-23-04]†

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [01.01.01] From tuna casserole to tofu, Patricia Klos has served it all during her career as director of Tufts' dining services. While food fads have shaped student preferences from time to time, Klos always makes sure the menu includes one important ingredient: choices.

"I've found that barbeque is a hot trend right now," she told The Boston Globe in a one-on-one interview published Sunday. "Students seem to enjoy ethnic cuisines and different stations like a food court. Soup and salad has always been popular, and students enjoy making their own sandwiches for lunch."

Vegetables like broccoli, asparagus and peas are also hot choices among college diners.

Kloss should know. For the last decade, she's been in charge of running all of Tufts' dining halls - from soup to nuts.

"Students have noticeably shifted away from high-carbohydrate foods like bagels to more proteins," she told the newspaper. "We offer a variety of featured fresh vegetables and high quality proteins to meet the increase in grain and legume consumption. But we don't eliminate foods."

Instead, Tufts - which was recently ranked 14th in the nation by Princeton Review's 2005 College Guide for the quality of its food - offers smaller portion sizes and plenty of alternatives.

Those include everything from cereal ("Cereal, especially the sugar cereals, has always been a popular energy boost among students.") to comfort foods.

"There was a time when we thought that some old favorites, such as tuna noodle casserole, roasted turkey dinner, etc., were kind of passť," Klos told the Globe. "But surprisingly, students enjoy these retro meals."

But unlike dining halls of old, students expect much more variety.

"I went to college between 1978 and 1982. It was different then," she told the Globe. "In the late ‘70s and ‘80s, soda was only available when pizza was served. Today, if we didn't have a million types of beverages, we would just be laughed out of the place."

Willing to give just about anything a try, Klos takes requests when she's stocking the kitchens. It usually works... but not always.

"There was a time, a few years ago, when students were being silly and asked us to serve SPAM, the canned ham," Klos said. "I mean, SPAM is popular in Hawaii, but it's not gourmet here. So we served it up and students tried it. We had mixed reactions."

Needless to say, SPAM isn't a fixture around campus, but the experience was worth a try.

"It's OK to serve a little bit of everything," Klos told the Globe. "Food is meant to be enjoyed."

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