Everyone Hates the DFAC
My boss came back from one of his meetings and announced that chow hall attendance had decreased significantly. Apparently, the fact that no one eats at the chow hall is a huge shock to Higher. I have no idea if Higher wants to increase attendance or if they’ve just figured out what the rest of us already knew. I guess when you’re a General and can have your meals catered or flown in from a Paris Michelin-rated restaurant you would have no idea what kind of slops are being served to the common Joe. What’s actually more shocking to me is that Soldiers are still eating at the DFAC and haven’t resorted to cannibalism as a viable alternative.
In case anybody cared, I’ve outlined reasons why the chow hall is a fail. I’m sure Higher doesn’t give a shit what I think but since I have nothing better to do at this exact moment, allow me to enumerate:
Reasons Soldiers Don’t Eat at the DFAC
- There’s enough fast food on post to kill an elephant. Even the health-conscientious Soldier would rather choke down a cantina bowl from Taco Bell over “Taco Tuesdays” dried up ground beef, limp lettuce and funny-smelling sour cream in the chow hall. For the Soldier who prefers cholesterol-hardened arteries, it just makes his decision easier to skip boiled steak night.
There are no gluten-free, organic, or restricted diet options. Don’t eat pork? Fuck you. Vegetarian? Low-carb? Celiac? Fuck you. Fuck you. And fuck you. Vegetarians don’t just want to eat salad, you know. As a person that doesn’t eat pork I’ve gone to the chow hall a few times to find the dinner entrée was either pork roast or ham steak. I opted for a grilled cheese, only to discover that it too had ham in it.
Everything tastes exactly the same. When you are cooking for a mass audience you do have to be neutral in your spice selection. Not everyone can eat food blanketed in sriracha, but does everything have to be drowned in tasteless cream sauce? Every fish entrée served is smothered in some kind of white sauce. Every pasta dish tastes like spaghetti. There really is no variety to any of the dishes. Let’s look at why this is. Friday is boiled steak night. Everyone knows that. The next night the entrée is “braised beef with noodles.” Hmm, amazingly braised beef tastes exactly like the steak we had the night before. You know what’s for lunch the day after that? Beef pot roast AKA boiled steak with gravy disguise. Every dish tastes like leftovers from the night before. If 100 Soldiers are supposed to eat the DFAC and only 47 show up, what did they do with the food for the other 52? You can best believe they did not throw it away. And stop with the bullshit ass “fancy” names. It’s not Asian Chicken Roast. It’s Chicken from Two Days Ago with Some Soy Sauce. And speaking of sauces, is it possible to get some sauce other than BBQ? There are about 25 varieties of BBQ sauce, and that’s it. I wouldn’t mind some teriyaki sauce, some kind of garlic sauce, or anything to drown out the stale pepper that is dusted over every single dish.
The DFAC is run like an infantry division. It is not an enjoyable experience to eat at the DFAC. I feel like it’s Basic Training all over again: get it in your neck and get the fuck out. Being deployed sucks; the Army seems to understand that, which is why it provides MWR options for Soldiers. Why isn’t the chow hall part of that whole MWR experience? If you look at most cultures, including the American culture, eating is a social experience. The DFAC does not espouse that at all. You are hit with rule after rule after rule. Don’t show up to the DFAC in your civilian clothes with your sunglasses on top of your head. Fuck you, old man, with your reading glasses on a necklace. The PFC at the door will sic a Rottweiler on your ass. Don’t even think about putting hot food in a small to-go container. You will be slaughtered. What if you want to dine-in but take some fruit or dessert for later? Good luck. No to-go containers allowed at the tables, and if you ask for a plate to dine-in they won’t give you a to-go container. You have to lie, cheat and steal your way out of the DFAC with a handful of grapes for a light snack later on. You want seconds because you’re really hungry? Leave the DFAC completely and come back through the front entrance again. Don’t you dare try to come back through the serving line again; that’s a Class A felony.
The DFAC can be inconvenient. Something that really irks me is that bags are not permitted in the DFAC. They say it’s a security measure, but we all know that’s bullshit. I don’t want to get into a whole security thing, so we’ll move on. I want to get chow on the way to work, but I need to carry a bag to work. So I need to first go to the chow hall and eat, then come back to my living quarters to get my bag. It would be much easier to just bring my bag to chow and proceed to work from there. I don’t have a vehicle, and I don’t need one just to carry a bag around. I’m fine with walking. I just want to conduct my business in one swoop without having to walk all over the place just to eat. Same thing on the way home from work. Go home first, to drop my bag and then go back to the DFAC, or leave my bag at work and come back to get it after I eat? It’s just a hassle, so skip the DFAC and popcorn from the USO for dinner it is. And forget about trying to take food out. It would be easier with a bag. I’ve only been here two weeks and three times I’ve seen Soldiers drop food and spill drinks trying to carry out. Just skip the mess and have a Frappuccino for lunch. That’s what I do. Working shifts? Trying to get food for a battle buddy that’s sick or working? You know you can’t get food for that Soldier if you don’t have his CAC. Don’t even attempt to get more than on to-go container. If the Soldier is working and needs his CAC to be logged into the computer, well, he can’t give it to you to get his food, can he? Might as well come with you. Or you know what, forget it. Just get Pizza Hut. You don’t need a CAC for that.
Anything you could want to eat is already gone. Whoever is ordering the food for the DFAC should be beaten. The DFAC has been out of cereal for a week. This morning I received intel that said there won’t be supply of cereal for another three weeks. Three weeks? Cereal is not perishable. It’s okay to store huge supplies of it. When you see your supplies dwindling, how about setting up another shipment so you never run out. We’ve been out of cranberry juice since Day 2. The grapefruit juice on the fountain has also been out of stock since I got here. In about a week’s time there will be a dearth of potato chips. These things seem minor but after a while it adds up and it becomes irksome. I’d been enjoying a bowl of dry Cheerios as a mid-morning snack but now I think I’ll just switch to ice cream and a Cinnabon.
Speaking of ordering supplies… this same supply person deserves another beating for ordering the cheapest materials possible. I know that’s the Army way, but at what point does it become ridiculous? I have learned to bring at least three forks and three knives to the table, because guaranteed at least one knife will break while I’m sawing through my three-day old chicken-flavoured patty. I will bet money that I will apply the slightest bit of pressure to my fork with my teeth and a whole tine will come off in my mouth. You can pour yourself 108 ounces worth of Mountain Dew, but only three ounces of coffee in those tiny ass Styrofoam cups. You better not fucking bring your own coffee mug either: you will be shot on sight.
You can only be hungry during DFAC hours. Thank God there’s midnight chow, not that I’m allowed to go, but it’s nice to know that it’s there. But forget it if you randomly get hungry around 3PM, or you feel like a late dinner after working out. Maybe you have a funny shift at work. Yes, they’re supposed to let you off for meals, but wouldn’t it be convenient to everyone if you could actually eat when you want to? The limited hours coupled with the ultra-inconvenience of taking food out makes it seem much more reasonable to just head to Nathan’s for a chili cheese dog, fries and a Monster.
To be fair, Soldiers do eat in the DFAC. I go every day. Really, I do. That’s how I have the right to complain about everything. It would be different if I never stepped foot in the place. Higher, don’t think you’ve scored a victory because you got a handful of Soldiers showing up at the trough. Let’s look at the reasons Soldiers might choose to eat the DFAC.
Reasons Soldiers Eat at the DFAC
- They’re forced to. For the Soldier of limited financial means there is nowhere else to eat. There are no kitchens or places a Soldier can cook his own meal. There is no commissary. The PX doesn’t sell anything green. You are trapped and there’s nothing you can do about it.
And that’s really all I could think of. Really, if the Army would just put a little more effort into the food it serves to the troops it wouldn’t be such a joke. Stop buying the cheapest, lowest quality products. Stop hiring low-wage contractors to cook the food. Ease up on the ridiculous restrictions coming into the DFAC. It’s a great idea to wash one’s hands and ensure clothing is clean, but sunglasses on my head while wearing civilian clothes doesn’t affect anything. Unless you see obvious waste and abuse, don’t restrict how much food a Soldier wants to eat, or how they carry it out. I can assure you, if a Soldier wants a second helping of those sloops it’s because he actually wants to eat it, or he’s bringing it to someone who couldn’t get to the DFAC.
Like a lot of things in the Army, no common sense was applied to DFAC operations. You can’t a write memorandum for everything, or structure everything based on a battle drill. It’s okay to let things just be. I know that in the Army that’s a completely foreign concept. Hence, the reason why no one eats at the DFAC.