Food files: Compe-taters take their mark for the battle of the breakfast spuds

Three anthropomorphized potatoes smile at one another, linking arms.
Graphic by Annie Wu

One of the things I like best about a liberal arts education is the wide array of options to choose from: options for majors, options for classes and, perhaps most importantly, options for breakfast potatoes.

Here at the 5Cs, you can have potatoes for breakfast nearly every day, which is something I regularly take advantage of. But with so many choices available, it can be hard to settle on just one. To help, I’ve compared some standout spuds from each dining hall for your starchy speculation.

Frary Dining Hall: Triangle potatoes

A classic. A mainstay. A familiar, fried friend in the breakfast lineup. Like a tater tot, the triangle potato consists of grated potatoes bound together by flour in deep fried harmony. But where tater tots lose their inner creaminess in favor of outer crunch, the shape and greater size of triangle potatoes allows them to maintain both. This occasionally yields an internal texture that verges on slimy, but the only pressing question I have for this compe-tater is: One or two? Rating: 4/5.

Collins Dining Hall: Country potatoes

This hearty option goes beyond potato parameters to include other vegetables — bell peppers, onions and large, cubed potatoes greet each other like old friends, recalling the home-fried diner staple of years gone by. They’re finished with a smoky spice mixture, though I think a touch more salt and time in the pan could have taken them from bland and soft throughout to savory and crispy on the outside. Rating: 3.5/5.

Malott Dining Commons: Home-fried potatoes

When it’s home-fried potato day at Malott, it’s guaranteed to be a good day. Unlike traditional home fries that are cooked in a pan, these small, cubed tubers are deep-fried, giving them an all-around crispy outside. Their small size makes them perfect for stacking with other things on a fork, forming delightful egg-potato, bacon-potato, you-name-it-potato bites. Their centers are occasionally a touch dry, but on the whole they make for a highly enjoyable breakfast experience. Rating: 4.5/5.

McConnell Dining Hall: Sweet potato tater tots

Would a classic Pitzer brunch be complete without sweet potato tots? I hesitate to think so. This sweet take on the time-honored cafeteria favorite brings a welcome twist to the flavor profile of the breakfast potato lineup. As sweet potatoes are softer than their pale compatriots, the texture of the tot is less complex and the exterior doesn’t crisp up as much. Nonetheless, the sweet flavor pairs well with all your favorite savory breakfast items. Rating: 3/5.

Hoch-Shanahan Dining Commons: Hash browns

Hash browns are a contentious potato iteration. Despite their ubiquity, they often fail to merit their reputation; the shredded potatoes sweat themselves into mush in the pan, their only saving grace being the few crunchy layers that have managed to come in contact with the pan itself. And yet, despite all odds, Hoch-Shanahan hash browns avoid these blunders and even pack an extra punch; the potato shreds remain distinct and chewy, the pan-crisped layers are abundant rather than rare and a savory spice lifts the dish firmly out of mushy mistake territory. Rating: 3.5/5.

Frank Dining Hall: Home fries

I’ll just come out and say it: Frank home fries are the best breakfast potatoes on campus. They’re simple, cut into thin round slices and fried, embodying the pure joy of eating potatoes on a weekday morning. Each slice develops a golden, crispy skin and the interior turns delectably tender. Despite their uncomplicated preparation, they somehow take on a savory aroma guaranteed to be the highlight of any breakfast plate. Rating: 5/5.

Final ratings:

McConnell Dining Hall: Sweet potato tater tots 3/5

Hoch-Shanahan Dining Commons: Hash browns 3.5/5

Collins Dining Hall: Country potatoes 3.5/5

Frary Dining Hall: Triangle potatoes 4/5

Malott Dining Commons: Home fried potatoes 4.5/5

Frank Dining Hall: Home fries 5/5

Erin Slichter PO ’21 is one of TSL’s food columnists. She’s an international relations major who spends the time she’s not reading political theory riding her bicycle, reviewing Russian verbs and baking sourdough bread.

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