Inside the mysterious Norse Commons Review Instagram
Get a taste of what NKU's premier dining reviewer is like in person.
April 2, 2023
Behind the veil of an Instagram account boasting nearly 700 followers and teeming with photos of food plates ranging on a spectrum of unappetizing to moderately enjoyable sits the character NKU’s student body can thank for Norse Commons Review.
The Instagram account dabbles in food photography—not for the aesthetics, but to illustrate the subjects of the captions. And the captions are where the real magic happens. Norse Commons Review has developed a causal method to review the meals they indulge in from NKU’s residential dining hall. Working their way around a plate of food, they individually review the food through descriptions of flavor, texture, sensation and critiques.
Norse Commons has caught a fair share of flack from students for their inconsistent food choices and limited hours. And the food critic behind Norse Commons Review does not refrain from dishing out some truly substantive advice and humorously articulated assessments.
Through NKU-piercing memes and outspoken commentary on the dining hall’s food, the account operator has become a masked voice for the on-campus student population that shares the occasional grievances that come with eating at Norse Commons.
On Sept. 12, 2022, the page posted a photo of a deceased unidentified flying insect reposing on their plate of food and betwixt green beans. This was an obvious source of concern.
“I joked with my friends like, ‘oh it was an assassination attempt.’ But I did go up and show the people there, like ‘yo, there was a yellow jacket or a hornet in my food,’ and they ended up taking everything off the line and the next few meals I went to I didn’t have to swipe,” said the person behind the page in an anonymous interview with The Northerner.
But the plights of dining at Norse Commons stretch beyond nonedible items sneaking onto plates. Most of what Norse Commons Review discusses is their personal opinion on the food, mixing in overwhelmingly disappointing meals with meals that satisfy and impress. A frequent point of let down for the reviewer is the pizza that they claim oftentimes to be doughy and unbrowned despite Norse Commons’ possession of an industry-standard pizza oven. “in pic 2 i show the crust of the pizza, which is browned for once. Without a heavily browned crust, pizza is just shitty bread with tomato sauce and cheese. Good job for using the $10,000 pizza oven properly,” they expound in a post with backhanded approval.
The character behind these posts can’t be relegated to an angry college student that found an outlet for pontificating rants. In our interview, they said they have come to recognize that slipstreams of brooding negativity about the university’s dining situation is a pattern of behavior that they have to keep in check for the sake of their personal well-being. Being a voice that threads popular opinion through formulating and dispersing negative thoughts—and being reposted and exalted for speaking out in such a way—can have a snowballing effect. “It kind of encourages me to think more negatively about a situation to a point where it’s just borderline unhealthy,” they said.
They also recognize a noticeable, steady increase in quality from Norse Commons, which they believe should be applauded. In part, this recognition comes from the love they have for mindful dining—from gratitude for the people that prepare and serve the food, to knowledge of the craft behind the food, and the experience of tasting and consuming the food. “I definitely like having to take the time to think about the food I’m eating, whether it’s good or bad, because it’s given me more appreciation for the fact that the people who work at Norse Commons are doing a hard job. Cafeteria work … is way more difficult and intense than most people realize,” they said.
This awareness of the holistic dining hall experience stems from their affinity for cooking and food. Cooking was a central part of their childhood and familial relationships. They recall outings smoking meat with their uncle and baking key lime pies with their grandmother every year for their birthday.
Now, the process of cooking brings them solace. Through experimentation and resourcefulness, they try to make the most out of meals they cook, testing different spice combinations to add flair to simple dishes like boxed mac and cheese or grilled vegetables. In many ways, it has become a form of expression for them to pour effort and creativity into cooking, and this expression embodies itself in Norse Commons Review through connecting with the food and divulging their feelings about it.
In a particularly sentimental post, they related their experience eating a New York Strip Steak from Norse Commons—an unusually high-end offering from the dining hall that they met with skepticism. The reviewer assesses themself as knowledgeable in the ways of steak preparation, mentioning that their senior project in high school was curating a cookbook of recipes using all the major cuts of beef.
To their pleasant surprise, the steak was solid, and they commented on the dish with fair criticism and praise. “I was expecting it to be overcooked, underseasoned, grey, and tough, but Commons made me look like an idiot,” they wrote in the post. “I’m sure this was expensive and time consuming, as steaks are difficult to batch cook. Good job Commons, I really appreciate the effort yall put into this.”
What started in the fall of 2021 as an amusing way to platform the misgivings about Norse Commons’ food and critiques on how it could be improved beyond the cafeteria table now finds itself at the boundaries of empathetic, critical and bantering, truly striking a chord with fellow diners. The account has noticeably slowed down on posting food reviews, but the account continues to grip its position as the “premiere Northern Kentucky University food critic.”
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