Jean Bennett started with U-MD Dining in 1961. Here's her retrospective.
The University of Maryland recently celebrated the 50th anniversary of service by one of its staff. Assistant Director of Dining Jean Bennett started with the school's dining services in 1961. FM recently interviewed her about her career and the changes she has seen.
What was your first job at U-MD?
Bennet: I was hired for the dishroom and worked there for about two months before moving to the front of the house, where I was on the serving line andserved as a cashier.
How many of you were there at the time?
Bennet: There must have been about 300 people.
How many choices were offered?
Bennet: Two entrees, two vegetables and a starch.
What were some things on the menu?
Bennet: Once in a while they'd serve tongue, beef tongue…
How did they cook it? Did they boil it?
Bennet: They put it on the grill. They also cooked liver and turkey, fried chicken, meat loaf. At lunchtime, it was cold cuts for sandwiches and soup.
I assume tongue and liver weren't the most popular items on the menu…
Bennet: Not true! Back then, there were a lot of students from the New York area and lots of farmer's kids, who were used to eating things like that.
What about breakfast?
Bennet: It was about the same menu they have now.
What were things that DID change?
Bennet: As the years went along, lunch changed. Salad bars came along. We used to make hand salads that were served in a bowl. You just had to pick it up and go.
How did the salad service change?
Bennet: We started to have different things: maybe a three bean salad one day, tomato and cucumber the next and a tossed salad at dinner with shredded carrots and two kinds of lettuce, tomatoes and other things. But not too much — maybe four ingredients in all.
What were some of the other big changes in the menu in the last 50 years?
Bennet: Mexican dishes, for one thing. We didn't have that when I started and now it's very popular. The students changed, so the style of food changed. It's more fast service now and no longer whole sit-down dinners any more. You just pick it up and you go.
When did it start changing?
Bennet: In the 70s, 1973 actually, when Matt Sheriff and John Decker came from from Rutgers University to run the dining service here.
What about changes to the meal plan?
Bennet: Don't even ask me about those because there are too many of them! Back then, you only had the one.
How was dining hall check-in handled?
Bennet: Everyone had an ID card, but without a picture. When they came in they showed their card and you clicked a counter you had in your hand. Now they go to the cash register on the way out and swipe the card.