Senior staffer Levi Cohen on the dark horse of the prepared salad bar.

I feel like tuna pasta salad is not the sort of thing you’re supposed to enjoy. It’s meant to be the last thing left at a picnic, left politely untouched; a last resort that marries leftovers with a pantry staple. Plus a little bit of vegetable, mainly for color, occasionally for contrastive crunch— that is, a contrastive crunch that you won’t experience, because you’re not supposed to eat tuna pasta salad.

And yet. AND YET. Whenever it makes an appearance at John Jay…….. I gotta eat some.

When I stroll in, planning to make my usual beeline to the grain bowl line, and I catch a glimpse of that tray piled high with beige, I find myself planning the rest of my meal around it. I make a little bowl of it, as you see above; maybe I hit it with some balsamic vinegar, for added tang. And as I sit down to my meal, contemplating the choices I’ve made, raising a forkful of fish and cold noodle to my mouth, I think: Why?

Why do I like it so much? Could it be that some immature part of my brain appreciates and craves the near-tastelessness and the near-homogeneity of texture that it provides? Is it connected to the irregular meal habits of my childhood, where I’d often eat a cold dinner standing up at the kitchen counter and reading the newspaper? Is it that I root for the little guys, and I can’t help but feel bad when I see the wheatberry salad completely cleaned out while the tuna pasta salad sits like a forlorn, fishy outsider?

Then I eat it, and it’s fine, and nevertheless I eat the entire bowl. And I clean up my plates the proper way, and leave the dining hall. And then wait for it to make another appearance, maybe in a week, maybe in a month. When I’ll get it again. And so on and so forth until I graduate and probably go on to never eat it again, or at least never in such regular intervals. So here’s to you, tuna pasta salad of John Jay, and to the folks who make you— long may you continue to provide undergraduates with the basic caloric intake they need to skim their Core readings.

All images via Bwogger.