As you could probably tell from the masses of snow-covered students crowding the lobby of John Jay last night, Columbia Dining hosted their annual Thanksgiving Feast this Thursday in John Jay Dining Hall. One Bwogger decided to attend this event solo yolo, using this opportunity to try some new foods, see some new sights, gain some new experiences, and in the spirit of Thanksgiving, make some new friends through sheer willpower. This is her story.
When I arrived in the lobby of John Jay on time, I was surprised by how many people showed up and how excited they were for the event despite the winter storm Niko 2.0 raging outside. Though there were so many people crowding the space, the Dining staff, wearing Thanksgiving Feast T-shirts, were incredibly helpful in pointing people to the correct direction and quickly checking students in. After students checked in, a staff member would show each party – even me, a party of one – to their respective table, which made the experience very personable.
After shown to my table, I found that the table, covered in a dark tablecloth, was really nicely set. I was particularly struck by the fact that the water was served in literal blue-tinted glass bottles and by the very beautiful silverware (not gonna lie, I was kinda tempted to take some of it home with me). Blue cloth napkins were folded neatly in the stem glasses, and the menu, printed on cardstock, looked delish.
I was sitting with a group of four students who had been friends since freshmen year, along with a graduate student who was also dining solo yolo. The group of four were seniors who had never been to Thanksgiving Feast before and wanted to try it before they left Columbia; the graduate student was also a Thanksgiving Feast newbie, so we were all in this experience together. Since the group of four had originally registered as a party of five but one of their friends didn’t show up, there was also an empty seat at our table for the first hour or so.
The first dish was already out on the table when we arrived and was beautifully plated. It was grilled asparagus with eggplant caponata, and though I’m not really usually an asparagus fan, it was delicious. It was a tad difficult to maneuver utensils to eat it properly – the asparagus was (as you can see) stuck between pieces of cucumber, and the caponato, while striking the right balance of flavors, had a texture that made it fall apart easily.
Our waitress was incredibly friendly and courteous – I really want to commend the Dining and catering staff for being so hospitable at the event – and soon took our plates away. The next course was the main course, which rather than arriving on individualized plates, came to the table to be eaten family-style. No one at our table was vegetarian (one of our tablemates was joking about how he turns vegetarian just for Thanksgiving to avoid the whole tofurkey sitation), so they soon brought over the turkey.
Keep in mind this turkey was an entire, uncut bird, and we had the option to either carve it ourselves or have a staff member carve it for us. We chose the latter. While I appreciate that they left the bird uncut to give diners a DIY choice, the task of cutting a turkey is a long one. Thus, we were waiting to get our turkey carved for approximately 20 minutes, and the turkey was in fact still being carved as we ate our meals.
Like the first dish, the main course was delicious, as well. The turkey, though on the drier side, was great when offset by the tart cranberry sauce. The stuffing was filling and quite flavorful, despite being a usually dull dish. I was also fascinated by the choice of the “trio of mashed potatoes” – it was 3 kinds of potatoes (mashed potatoes, mashed sweet potatoes, and cut baby potatoes), all placed in the same dish.
I honestly really appreciated the family-style dishes, as someone who usually eats Thanksgiving dinners with family friends where food is served buffet-style and thus has never had a Thanksgiving meal in a sit-down setting. It allowed a lot of warmth in the atmosphere and was a good way to bond with my new friends.
Conversation surprisingly really flowed well, partly due to the great job Dining had done of setting the mood and partly due to my own insistence on being the most extroverted version of myself. I even learned that one of my tablemates was pursuing a joint master’s degree with his undergraduate degree during his 4 years here, and had taken 7-8 classes for his past few semester! I unfortunately had to leave quickly and couldn’t stay for dessert, as I had to scurry off to my 6:10-8 CC class; quite honestly, I was honestly heartbroken that I missed the chance to try the options of apple pie and pumpkin pie.
As I left Thanksgiving Feast, I found that I had really enjoyed the experience having attended as a party of 1, though there were a few few bumps along the way in the event in regards to logistics, and I hope that I can come back next year (unattached to this weird social experiment element I had decided to add last-minute) and finally try the dessert.
Photos via Bwogger