The Gastronomic Plight of the Law Student

Scott Dallen (1L)

As the most recent refugees of the administrative pandemic that is university construction, we law students have been cast out into U of T’s East Campus—a cold, unforgiving culinary desert that makes the Siberian tundra feel like the food fair at the Canadian National Exhibition.

The diasporic law community, graciously sheltered by Victoria College, has turned overwhelmingly to Ned’s Café to sustain its samosa fueled stress-eating habit. Tenuous at the best of times, this relationship is often strained further by the irritable glances of undergraduate students unable to find a table amongst the swathes of law students prepping for trial advocacy and upper-year moots.

Recently, many law students have faced adversity and hardship due to the widening undergraduate-law divide. Several students attending the fabled “Free Soup Thursday” were told—in the spirit of a certain ladle-wielding canonical fascist—that there would be no soup for law students. Even more recently, sympathizers rallied behind a 1L student who was asked to pay $0.55 for a glass of hot water at Ned’s Café, an unprecedented event formally known as the Hot-Watergate Scandal.

Not to be disheartened, law students have learned to adapt to our unfavourable gastronomic landscape. We learned that the Tim Hortons on Bay St is 25 metres closer than the Tim Hortons on Bedford Road. We learned that Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are $0.27 cheaper in the vending machines than they are in Ned’s Café. And we learned that the minimum amount of time one must stay at a lunchtime panel in order to justify the free food is precisely 18 minutes.

We learned these things because food and snacks are an essential aspect of life at U of T Law—a fundamental unifying feature of a student culture pulled apart by the bell-curve, competitive moots, and Bay St recruitment.

So when the administration announced that the new Jackman Law Building would house some sort of culinary institution, a fever of nervous apprehension swept across the student body. Some joined the Food Advisory Committee and construcively contributed to an informed process. Others desperately speculated that the new building would feature the first “In N’ Out Burger” franchise outside of Southern California. (Okay, maybe that was just me.) One representative even claimed that the administration had considered buying into the popular Cat Café trend before quickly realizing that no work would be done at the law school ever again.

In the end, the Advisory Committee’s decision represents perhaps the best option that could reasonably be expected. The first floor of the Jackman building will feature a small university-run café catered by the kitchens at 89 Chestnut Street, similar to the Green Beet at Gerstein Library. The café will focus on healthy foods, vegetarian options, and affordability, and it will feature coffee from local (and possibly rotating) roasteries.

One is left to wonder why, if students’ needs have truly been taken into account, we have not been provided with a heavily subsidized brew-pub that serves an eclectic mix of gourmet poutine and Guy Fieri signature dishes. Still, the administration’s plan seems to be a suitable compromise.