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Breakfast: eggs and a pancake.

Let's talk about food.

I want you to imagine you're already here, at Dartmouth, and you're walking around with an invisible hat on your head and underneath this hat–there's a friendly French rat called Rémi, who is enamored with food! It's around eight o'clock in the morning — you and your imaginary (yet very real) French rodent (who's a little sleepy on this particular morning) are heading across the Dartmouth Green to the 1953 Commons dining hall, also known as FOCO. It's misty and a little chilly, but you've got a feeling it's gonna be a good day.

You walk into FOCO, and you say good morning to the sweet lady who swipes your Dartmouth ID card and asks you, "How are you, dear?" (Both you and Rémi the rat love her so much for that "dear.") And now you're in. You leave your backpack at your usual table, by the windows to the left, and you're ready to embrace that glorious notion of Freshman Fifteen! I'm just joking here–Rémi, the invisible rat sitting on top of your head, won't let you have anything that's not delicious AND healthy. Okay, I maybe have to admit here that for some reason my Rémi never seems to be this vigilant about my diet when I walk past the ten flavors of ice cream and the caramel (I'm crazy about caramel).

Now back to our little thought experiment: You walk into FOCO, and suddenly the French food-enthusiast playing with your hair as though you're a string puppet wakes up–he's ready to eat!

I don't know about YOUR Rémi, but mine was very uneducated about American food when we arrived at Dartmouth. On my first day here, Rémi and I really wanted to have some cheese. In Bulgaria, we have this cheese dish called Cașcaval Pane–that's a hell of a word, I know (that's how Wikipedia spells it in English). And I thought they had it at FOCO–I mean what else could these orangish fried sticks be? It turned out that they were made of POTATO and not cheese.

"Rémi, you're a professional French cook! How couldn't you tell cheese apart from a potato?!"

One other morning, my imaginary food-enthusiast (who apparently is just an enthusiast, not a professional) advised me to try some of the oatmeal, so I took a spoonful of oatmeal and put it on my plate and ate it like that–a nice portion of plain oatmeal.

"Yikes, Rémi, what on earth is THIS? It's tasteless!"

Rémi, my imaginary French rat, looked at me apologetically. "Er…"

"Gosh, Rémi!"

It took me a week to realize that you were supposed to add things to your oatmeal and you don't have to just eat it plain. Now I'm having oatmeal with raisins, brown sugar and cinnamon, and sometimes even peanut butter, and it's much better! (Hear that, Rémi?)

Every now and then I still get a little confused as to what certain dishes are (maybe I just have to read the menu on the screen, duh), but I now know much better how to navigate the many options they have at FOCO. I also know how to eat my oatmeal, and I know where the caramel is (that's by far the most important thing to know, right?). The food is delicious (as long as you correctly identify it as potato and not as cheese) and there are loads of options to eat healthy, so that imaginary French cook on top of your head can relax a little (Watch out, there's the ice cream!).

Now if you'll excuse me… I have to go get my portion of eggs and oatmeal (and pancakes).

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