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Rutgers Dining Services' Friendsgiving spread worth experiencing for atmosphere, if not food

This past Thursday, Rutgers Dining Services put out a Thanksgiving-themed spread in dining halls on campus. – Photo by Jed Owen / Unsplash

On select days, Rutgers Dining Services hosts events in dining halls with special foods, drinks and sometimes entertainment. This past week, there was the dining services' annual Friendsgiving event.

Although I’m a proud College Avenue campus resident, I took a bus to the Livingston Dining Commons to experience its Thanksgiving cuisine. It was crowded as always, and I found myself bobbing around and swooping under people to get what I needed.

The dining hall's menu ran the gamut of Thanksgiving-themed food. There was turkey, baked ham, mashed potatoes, corn pudding, cranberry sauce, stuffing, cornbread and more.

I was disappointed to learn that the turkey was a bit dry, considering it was the night's main event, but gravy helped that problem slightly. Additionally, the dining hall employee who had been carving the whole turkey while wearing a Thanksgiving-themed Aloha shirt and turkey-shaped sunglasses was certainly a plus.

Beyond the turkey, the mashed potatoes were a massive hit, and I heard a positive consensus around the dining hall about the baked ham. The fruit spread was also lauded by dining hall patrons for its variety — it included pomegranates, kiwis, watermelon, oranges, pears, grapes and melons. I was excited to see that many people walking around were holding entire platefuls of fresh fruits.

Unfortunately, the only entrees available were meat or fish, so the Thanksgiving spread did not support vegans or vegetarians well and meant that they would have to get their entrees from the dining hall's non-Thanksgiving-themed, cook-to-order stations. In the future, Rutgers should do a better job of including those with dietary restrictions, perhaps with tofurky.

Most exciting was the dessert spread: apple pie, pumpkin pie, pecan squares and snowflake rolls. A huge cheesecake fan, I opted for the pumpkin cheesecake, and it made me quite happy.

Unfortunately, the Friendsgiving drinks were limited to only hot and cold apple cider. When I went to Friendsgiving last year at Brower Commons on the College Avenue campus, there were multiple kinds of mocktails in sugar-rimmed, plastic flutes and glasses. Trying all of the drinks had been my favorite part of the night.

Although I’m aware that the Livingston Dining Commons has less space than Brower Commons, I would recommend finding a way to bring back this tradition. Perhaps dining services could use the unused space at the burger bar or even move a few tables in the dining area and bring out fold-out tables to put the mocktails on.

After my trip to Livingston Dining Commons, I went back to the College Avenue campus and stopped by the Atrium to see what it had done for Friendsgiving. Although it had decorated for the event and offered Thanksgiving foods with fun side meal options, College Avenue campus residents didn't get nearly the same treatment as those on other campuses regarding a proper Thanksgiving spread. A lack of a traditional dining hall for these residents is most apparent during events like Friendsgiving.

Events like Friendsgiving give students something to look forward to or be surprised by when they first walk into a dining hall. Even if the food is not always up to par, students can still appreciate the effort put into these events and embrace the wholesome atmosphere they generate. For any students interested in more dining hall special events, gear up for Rutgers Dining Services' holiday buffet before winter break.

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