Navigating FoCo To-Go

By Caela Murphy, The Dartmouth Staff | 2/19/14 3:00am

It’s week seven. It seems like only yesterday you were arriving back on campus for the winter and bracing yourself for the long, cold term to come, but now finals are fast approaching, and you’re feeling completely unprepared. This is crunch time. This is FoCo to-go time.

Picking up a quick meal to eat in 1902 seems easy enough, but the DDS takeout option is a complex feat that few (if any) have mastered. For those of you who are blessed enough to have never experienced FoCo to-go, here’s what it generally entails:

You arrive at FoCo before 6 p.m. or after 7 to beat the dinner-rush lines. Every second counts. As your card is swiped, you are confronted with an impossible question: hot or cold cup? There’s no way to know the correct answer unless you’ve studiously researched the online menu beforehand, and with everything else on your figurative plate, it slipped your mind. You throw caution to the wind and ask for a hot cup, hoping there’s pasta e fagioli soup on the menu.

Before beginning, you take a moment to examine the tools you’ve just been handed. The container is neatly divided: two tiny pockets, each big enough to hold two chicken nuggets or roughly two and a half pieces of steamed broccoli, and a large pocket for, you know, the rest of your dinner. Armed with this vessel, you enter the food court.

The first station you encounter is the salad bar. I want to take a second here to note that this is probably the single section for which to-go is preferable to eating in: having a sealable container allows you to shake up your greens and veggies and maximize dressing distribution. If you’re in the mood for salad, you’ve hit the to-go jackpot. If you’re craving something more substantial, your life is about to get more difficult.

You proceed to the soup station and find, to your horror, that both options this evening are exceptionally grim. Your empty hot cup silently mocks you for your poor judgment. You’re alarmed and distraught, but as the saying goes, don’t get mad — get even. You walk back several paces to the dessert section and grab a couple of cookies to “graze” while you browse, pushing the to-go limits to the max. Take that, DDS! Warm chocolate and sweet revenge melt in your mouth as you continue your quest.

The thought occurs to you to treat yourself with some stir fry, but the line is looking pretty long, and if you had time for that you wouldn’t be getting FoCo to-go. The obvious choice would be to simply fill your container with pizza and call it a night, but you’re not ready to quit just yet. You continue further into FoCo, intentionally ignoring the World View station – that pho smells delicious, but getting it into your container would be an absolute disaster.

You walk a bit farther and reach the end of the hall. At this stage, you collect a few browsing fries, to both celebrate how far you’ve made it and prepare yourself for the journey yet to come. After assessing your options and determining that it would be a hassle to dispose of your plate after getting food at either The Grill or The Pavilion, you settle on Herbivore and Ma Thayer’s. You collect an assortment of sticky rice, stuffed shells, teriyaki chicken and a bizarre item called “smashed potatoes.” Satisfied with your findings, you opt for yogurt for dessert.

But wait: that’s not a hot cup item, and you’ve already filled your plastic container with various saucy and savory foods. To contaminate these with yogurt would ruin the entire meal. This is your nightmare. You consider throwing in the towel and just skipping dessert altogether. But you’ve come this far, and with a full night of studying ahead, you’re determined to snatch a small victory. You stop by The Grill once more and eat a nug for good measure (and because, let’s face it, they’re delicious), then march confidently toward the fruit section to fill your hot cup to the brim with illicit yogurt. After sprinkling some granola on top, you finally leave the food court behind you.

When you reach the register, you hastily pick up your ID and try to make a break for it, but the person behind the counter stops you and points accusingly toward the cup you’re obviously trying to shield from view. You feign ignorance, muttering something about not understanding the rules, or simply stare in disbelief at the cup, as if someone had snuck up behind you and poured Greek vanilla yogurt and goji berry granola into it while your back was turned. If the cashier is feeling generous and lets you off with a warning, you thank him or her profusely and make your grand escape. If not, you accept defeat and hand over your contraband, already plotting your all-day FoCo study session (read: rebellion) for that weekend.

Caela Murphy, The Dartmouth Staff