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  • Writer's pictureThe Blue and White Magazine

Blue Notes, October 2018

Updated: Sep 4, 2021

The feature most immediately striking about Flor de Mayo is its utterly confusing decor. Visiting the restaurant, I walked into what first appeared to be a sports bar—brick walls, baseball posters and mildly inebriated forty-somethings—before looking to my left to find an ornate fish tank and canvases covered with Chinese calligraphy. When I arrived at my table to find a menu featuring Peruvian fare on one side and Chinese on the other, things started to click.

Located on 101st and Broadway, Flor de Mayo offers Chinese and Peruvian cuisine (Chino- Latino, as they affectionately call it) at a student-friendly price. Their Pollo a La Brasa, a signature Peruvian rotisserie chicken dish, will cost you eleven dollars, and comes with your choice of rice, fries, or plantains. I recommend lavishing the chicken in vinegar and, for a few more dollars, pouring beans over the fries. And if you aren’t in the mood for Peruvian food, you can order classic Chinese dishes at a similar price.

Illustration by Sahra Denner

The cuisines of China and Peru work surprisingly well alongside each other. Any concerns about culinary dissonance are misplaced, as the restaurant deftly handles the demands of both cuisines, respecting their different appeals and making no misguided effort to shoehorn one into the other. The restaurant feels distinctly New York, with its hodge-podge menu of diverse offerings; and melting pots make for delicious meals.

The service was also excellent. At one point, my meal-mate, lost in a long winded story, began absentmindedly picking his teeth with a straw. In a flash, our waiter, Susan, darted over and gave each of us toothpicks. We thanked her before leaving, and she replied with a smile, “Next time I’ll be a little mean, just to spice it up.”

Flor de Mayo may not knock your socks off. It’s not fine dining, or ‘restaurant week’ material, but it provides a variety of tasty indulgences in an unusual environment, making it well worth your time. And with two dollar delivery, next time you’re on the seventh floor of John Jay, take a whiff; odds are, that smell emanating down the hall—spicy, vinegary, toothsome—will be some Chino-Latino feast, and I’ll probably have enough to share.

—Amad Ross

Not many Columbia undergrads find their way up to the new Manhattanville campus, but those who do visit the Jerome L. Greene Science Center may be surprised to find people scaling a large wall of colored rocks.

Steep Rock West, a rock climbing gym, and the Manhattanville campus’s first retail tenant, opened in June 2017. They specialize in bouldering, a form of rock climbing that does not require ropes or harnesses.

In bouldering, climbers rely on their strength alone to get to the top of the wall. A smattering of chalk dust improves grip, and a foot of padding softens falls. Maneuvering up the rocks is a tough physical and mental workout.

However, the staff is more than happy to help newcomers get started. Leo O’Brian, CC ’18, emphasized the supportive atmosphere of Steep Rock.

Illustration by Susie Steinfeld

“There’s a large community,” O’Brian said. “I think that’s the appeal of this gym for a lot of people because everyone’s pretty friendly.”

Steep Rock West tends to attract more beginners than their Upper East Side location. “It’s a lot of people who are trying it out or need a new hobby,” O’Brian said.

First-timers aren’t the only ones who make use of the climbing wall. The Columbia Climbing Club practices at Steep Rock West three times a week. Avery Park, SEAS ’20, the club’s president, described the convenience of having a climbing facility on-campus.

“I think it being there has strengthened the CU climbing community because we are all concentrated to this one gym, instead of before when we were spread out amongst other gyms,” Park said.

“People interested in climbing with some club members and getting stronger are welcome to come to as many practices as they can,” Park adds.

Members of the club range from experienced climbers to complete beginners.

Steep Rock’s prices are $22 for a day pass, $18 for college students, and $15 outside of peak hours; memberships are also available. The gym also hosts free climbing days throughout the year.

—Grace Adee

Emily Wilson, the first woman to do a full-length English translation of The Odyssey, has made her way into Columbia classrooms as the second woman to translate a Literature Humanities text. The decision to make the switch from the translation by Richmond Lattimore arose from the LitHum syllabus review that happens every three years.

Professor Stalnaker, the new chair of Literature Humanities, cites one of the primary reasons for the change as the scarcity of female epic translators. The committee was also drawn to Wilson because of her translation techniques. She uses simplistic language and is dedicated to preserving Homer’s original length. Her introduction, translator’s note, maps, and pronunciation guide all work to create a more accessible version of the epic.

Professor Stalnaker acknowledges that this edition opens itself up to critical debate in ways the Lattimore edition did not. It engages students in a broader conversation of what is valued in translation.

This is a recurring conversation in Professor Nancy Workman’s class, who deems the use of the Wilson translation “inappropriate” for LitHum. She finds that Wilson “radically compresses what the poem says about Odysseus,” through mistranslation and omission.

Professor Workman argues that Wilson over-directs the modern reader’s interpretation. While, for example, the simple addition of chapter titles may ease things for students, it may also prevent them from analyzing the text in the way it was originally written.

Illustration by Susie Steinfeld

Wilson’s edition begs the question of whether or not there is value in simplifying classical texts for modern readers. Granting that there is value for a reader who is intimidated by archaic language and wants to read the text recreationally, Professor Workman believes the translation makes it harder for students to identify patterns and craft.

She concedes, however, that Wilson’s clarity brings out elements that might otherwise be lost in complex language. Wilson tells Homer’s story in a unique way, choosing not to include gendered terms like “slut” and “whore,” that pepper Lattimore’s translation. In doing so, she frames a narrative more empathetic to female characters. Though moving to the new translation has been controversial, one hope is that it will further questions and develop perspectives on gender so often missing from LitHum classrooms.

—Sarah DeSouza


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