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  • Writer's pictureThe Blue and White Magazine

Is This a Columbia Dining Event?

By Lucia Dec-Prat and Ava Lozner



Illustration by Ellie Hodges


Affirmative


When I chose my first-year dining plan, I knew what I wanted: meal swipes. Forget about Flex or Dining Dollars, there’s nothing like a heaping plate of dining hall food. Especially today. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Friendsgiving, and I made three juice boxes at the Inner Child event. But today’s event is new, fresh, and wholly invigorating. This pushes the boundaries of themed dining. Today’s meal is not just a plate of food; it’s a curated lifestyle experience. 


I could tell this event was special from the moment I walked in and saw all the dining hall staff wearing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle masks. I knew the food was delicious when I spotted vats of Beyond Meat mussels, emanating steam and exuding an aromatic odor of abundance. I could barely contain my excitement when I saw Chef Mike’s action station covered with a monumental Lithuanian flag and serving ambitious meat dishes. Yum.


Two earth-shattering, life-changing, palate-provoking plates later, I was back for more. My next stop: the salad bar. Nothing hits the spot quite like beef gelatin tzatziki after a long day of FroSci homework. I adorned my gooey dip with shallot-infused vegetable oil and a portion of glistening fusion salad with  ambiguous cultural heritage. This is global citizenship.


I’ll be honest: I’m not entirely sure what the theme is. All I know is that this nitro cold brew froth perfectly complements my birria-style risotto. How did they know “Wiggle” by Jason Derulo is my favorite song? I’m getting off track. Walking past the cardboard cutout of Liza Minelli, it dawns on me that this event is too ineffable, too ephemeral, to be labeled. 


Tonight’s event is a performance piece. Its an implicit criticism of our generations obsession with categories. Columbia Dining has done it again: they’ve taken another bold political stance and created a legendary themed event. I am ideologically challenged, physically satiated, truly and completely content. As I shovel the raspberry cheesecake french toast sticks, carefully Jenga-stacked , into my mouth, I take out my phone.


“Today’s meal set the standard for menu design and execution. The event of the century. Thank you Columbia Dining!” Satisfied, I hit submit. I hope this one makes it onto the good reviews TV screen. Columbia Dining, you made my day.



Negative


God, if you’re up there, can you end this once and for all? 


I forgave the radioactive mac ‘n’ cheese. I braved the rancid Friendsgiving stench. But mussels? Since when did Chef Mike and his perverted little menu planners start experimenting with aquatic cuisine? Half of those slimy oblong mollusks didn’t even have any fucking insides. What am I to do? Suck on the shells like some sort of bottom feeder? That’s the problem with this institution. They hand you Fish Stink™ so poignant it feels almost offensive and expect a tearful “thank you” for the opportunity to suckle at their barren, merciless teat.


I digress. Or at least that’s what I would say if I’d stopped in my tracks and whipped a full 180 the second I laid eyes on those “mussels.” What I saw next was possibly even more mortifying, and provoked a question that has been dry humping my brain ever since: What the hell is a “Pig in a Bikini”? Pigs in a blanket, sure. I can get it. They get cold sometimes!!! Everyone does!!!!!! Wrap yourself in a fuzzy little blanket, hammy queen!!! But why the fuck would I want a Pig in a Bikini sliding down this here gullet??? And believe me, they’re not fooling anyone. Bikini, my ass—the breaded bathing costume in question has been fashioned out of two skimpy bands of soggy croissant dough that seductively slide off the second you try to snatch one of those piggies up with a pair of serving tongs.


It was after I plopped the second Pig in a Bikini on my plate that the thought occurred to me: what on God’s green earth is tonight’s dining event? I frantically scanned John Jay’s dining hall decorations with the hope of gleaning some answers, but  was met only with the haunting grin of a Liza Minelli cardboard cutout that I had managed to plant myself in front of (I thought I was in line for the action station). Behind me, a kitchen staff member in a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles mask yelled “HOT! HOT! COMING THROUGH” before ramming into me with the tub of white, creamy liquid he was trafficking through the crowd. Like Moses or a rock, I stood, parting the seas of John Jay’s teeming crowd as I puzzled over throughlines that would unite the tomfoolery I was witnessing into a comprehensive theme. 


I had started feeling uneasy after the explosive diarrhea stint that followed Dairy Appreciation Day. Then came the Bring Your Pet to Work Day incident, which involved a certain employee’s pet bird shitting into the vat of lentil soup. I won’t even mention the Anything But Beef event.  How had I failed to put the signs together until now? The themed meal madness had progressively gotten further out of hand and there was only one explanation for it. Chef Mike was power-hungry, and he was only growing bolder. He had abandoned the notion of theme altogether.


This was too far. There was no theme. No cohesive ambiance. There was no event. Only chaos. There is little comfort in this cold, cruel world. I thought I could come to John Jay for some solace. But I was wrong. 

The dark thoughts started to creep in. What if you’ll never be enough? You don’t deserve to be here. Everyone knows what you did in the 6th floor Butler bathroom at 11:53 p.m. on December 2, 2023. I couldn’t take it anymore. Staring down at my plate of empty mussels and beef gelatin tzatziki, I felt a tear chart its course down my cheek and a pit form in my stomach.


But wait — what’s that? A voice rises over the dining hall shouting words whose meaning I can’t quite grasp, but that I feel like I have known forever. It sounds like … salvation. Soon, all of John Jay is enveloped in the beautiful noise of a synchronous, monotonal chant. My confusion dissolves. I grasp the hand of the girl next to me who had gagged on her fusion salad moments earlier. She is shaking and crying, praising Lord Mike along with the rest of us. I realize my entire life has led to this moment. I am one with every single soul in this dining hall. I was born to praise Him. Live Laugh Lord Mike. Live Laugh Lord Mike. Live Laugh Lord Mike…

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