It’s 5 p.m. in Hillsdale, Michigan. Students across campus are hungry after a long day of classes, complaining, and coffee consumption. Hundreds will head to the Knorr Family Dining Room to weigh their options and eventually land at Sizzle. Another bunch will spend precious Liberty Bucks at A.J.’s. Some will even flee to Handmade or Burgers Unlocked.
But at 5 p.m. in the Greek houses, a bell rings or someone yells “Dinner!” and everyone rushes down the stairs to find the source of the smell that has wafted up to their bedrooms.
At the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity house, the men said their ATO prayer in the front living room before shuffling into the dining room for three varieties of fettuccine and filing back to the kitchen to get veal hot off the grill from their chef, Wayne Babcock. Some guys ran back to the refrigerator to grab a Gatorade, Mountain Dew, or Red Bull.
Off-campus fraternity members came to the house to join their brothers for dinner, swapped stories about their week, and teased the visiting fraternity pledges.
A block down Hillsdale Street, at the Kappa Kappa Gamma house, girls left their phones upstairs, made sure they had some kind of shoes on, lined up to get their naan pizza and salad, and filled each table before starting a new one.
“We can’t start another table before one is filled,” senior Lauren Tunney said.
“That way you get to sit with different sisters every night.”
Kappa chef and “house mom” Jen Steele sat at the head of the first table, joining the girls in their conversation while other girls laughed in the kitchen as they washed the dishes.
Meanwhile, the women of Chi Omega lined up in the kitchen at 5:30 p.m., filling their plates with pasta and salad before joining their house director, Jodi Martin, at the dinner table. Loud conversation and laughter quickly traveled among the tables as the girls and several guests caught up over their meal.
A short walk away, sweet potato fries and broccoli-stuffed chicken was pulled out of the oven right before the women of Pi Beta Phi sang their prayer.
After the harmony concluded, everyone crowded into the kitchen to load up their plates before gathering at the tables. Conversation crossed between the tables as girls discussed their spring break plans and swapped conspiracy theories.
Later, some girls washed the dishes while others grabbed popsicles from the freezer before heading back to the table to visit with latecomers.
Back at the ATO house, several guys gathered in the living room to extend their dinner conversation while visitors and off-campus brothers loaded up to-go boxes of Babcock’s coveted dinners before heading out.
In the Chi Omega house, chef Eveline Hecklinger checked if the girls liked the dinner as they hung out at the tables eating fruit, ice cream sandwiches, and other desserts.
The girls discussed their favorite meals, from taco salads to salmon, and jotted their ideas on the whiteboard for Hecklinger to cook the following week.
Roommate pairs plan meals at the Kappa house. Each week, a new duo decides the culinary experiences for the rest of the girls.
“I like the fact that we get to spend more time with each other and our house mom to plan meals,” sophomore Anayia Veremis said. “It’s a bonding experience.”
At the Pi Phi house, the girls trust their house mom, Debbie Showler, to do the cooking.
“Debbie does an awesome job planning our meals,” sophomore Abby Burns said. “It’s always great to come back to her cooking.”
From shopping, to cooking, to taking the time to leave the hill and go home for dinner, Greek dinners can be a lot of work, but it brings everyone together. Every dinner gives the girls and guys the opportunity to catch up, enjoy food, and laugh until it’s time to study again.