Before students even had a chance to form the lines that ran out of the Thorne and Moulton lobbies yesterday, Bowdoin Dining Service was hard at work ensuring a smooth operation for our traditional Thanksgiving dinner.

This year, workers were greeted early Thursday morning with a broken dishwasher, while elsewhere an elevator holding roughly 800 pounds of food to be prepared for the dinner was stuck between floors.

As if keeping roughly 1,700 ravenous college students satiated throughout the academic year is not challenging enough, these hard-working men and women go the extra mile each November to serve a complete Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings.

According to dining service's Associate Director of Operations Michelle Gaillard, the Thanksgiving meal has been served at Bowdoin longer than the record books can keep track of.

However, not even dining service's years of practice can counter its specific challenges.

"The biggest challenge is handling the volume of students that come through the lines and getting them through quickly," said Gaillard. "We try to keep people's time in the lines as short as possible. Additionally, students eat more at Thanksgiving dinner than they do at pretty much any other meal."

While this year's menu included all the holiday staples—glazed ham, roast turkey, relish, and more—dining service must also consider alternative diets and the overall nutritiousness of the meal.

When asked how the menu varies from year to year, Gaillard said, "The staples are the same, obviously. We've always had turkey, and I think we've pretty much always had ham. We try to do a different vegetarian entrée every year because there's always something new for us to make for vegetarians. Also, our cooking techniques have changed throughout the years—it's not as heavy a meal as it used to be."

Bowdoin's Thanksgiving dinner provides students each year with a comforting taste of tradition.

While Thanksgiving dinner traditionally is not a great meal for vegetarians, dining services is considerate as always to the non-meat eaters of the student population.

"We love our vegetarians," said Gaillard. "However, we don't cook for vegetarians as much as we cook for people who love vegetables. That way, we end up serving a delicious entrée that happens to not contain meat."

This year, the dinner featured a vegetable pot pie with a vegan crust.

It is not just the food that generates enthusiasm among students over the dinner.

"There are a lot of great things about the Thanksgiving dinner," said Jules Valenti '10. "I love that it gives me to opportunity to re-connect with people who I haven't seen for a while...this year I'm meeting up with people from my old floor, and it should be great."

In general, Bowdoin students enjoy a Thanksgiving celebration to a greater extent than students at many other small colleges.

A current Dartmouth student was surprised to hear about the scale of Bowdoin's Thanksgiving dinner.

"Our dining halls don't do anything particularly special for the holiday," she said. "One of the halls serves some Thanksgiving-themed entrees, but since there's a turkey dinner every week, it's basically just a re-named meal. The Thanksgiving celebrations here are usually small events put on by independent student organizations."

Bowdoin's Thanksgiving dinner is not just another meal on the board plan; it is a long-standing tradition appreciated by all who participate.

It is partly in these challenges, preparing a meal, the anticipation of waiting in line, and the resultant anecdotes that the joy of participating in the Thanksgiving meal comes from, Gaillard said.

The rest "is a no-brainer. Watching students enjoy this meal makes it worthwhile for us."