On Thursday night, two days before the move-out deadline for most on-campus students, dining services served Thanksgiving dinner at both dining halls. This year, one of the College’s most extravagant meal traditions has been adapted to a smaller scale.
“It does feature a lot of traditional Thanksgiving items,” said Isaac Aldrich, culinary manager for Thorne dining hall. “We do have Bowdoin logs available this time, which we expect to be very popular.”
Aldrich reminisced about the long lines for the Thanksgiving dinner last year. Despite logistic limitations, however, he remains determined to deliver a good time for students on campus this year.
“Last year was my first year here, so I got a taste for what it normally would look like. It’s a big excitement, a big draw and we had people waiting in line for up to an hour before we even opened the doors,” Aldrich recalled. “It was just a good time. This year this is going to look a lot different, but we’re excited to give the students something to be excited about.”
For some students, however, this will serve as their introduction to Thanksgiving at Bowdoin.
“A lot of the students that we have right now are [first years],” said Aldrich. “I hope they just get a good taste for the meal and how great it is so that when we get back to normal [they would] get excited about the dining [experience].”
For first years on campus, the Thanksgiving dinner served as a source of warmth and community as COVID-19 cases in Maine and nationwide continue to rise. For Di Phung ’24, from Vietnam and Houston, Texas, the meal was one of the highlights of her dining experience at Bowdoin. While her family does not usually celebrate Thanksgiving, Bowdoin’s tradition enabled her to spend quality time with friends ahead of her return to Houston.
“Bowdoin’s Thanksgiving dinner is one of the best dinners I have had this semester. I love the Bowdoin Log with the dipping sauce and the mashed potatoes,” she wrote in an email to the Orient.
While the meal is usually greeted by a full student body teeming with enthusiasm for Thanksgiving break, this year it is instead marked by goodbyes and the melancholy prospect of separating from friends.
“Because I had Thanksgiving dinner with my housemates, the atmosphere was much more heartwarming than on normal days. As we ate, we talked about our first impressions of each other in the beginning. [It] was sentimental,” she added. “Since we have to pack up and move out this week, the dinner makes this week even more meaningful as a goodbye meal for my core group.”
This week also presents a challenge for dining services, which is already operating with a depleted staff due to having fewer student employees—numbers are fluctuating as students leave to go home.
“At the beginning of the year we were scrambling to figure out how we were going to [adjust from] self-service to having to serve everything and package everything up,” said Daran Poulin, culinary manager of Moulton Union. “The biggest thing [for this Thanksgiving is that] a lot of students have left, or are leaving. So it’s throwing off [our idea of] how much food we’re preparing.”
The dining staff are also looking forward to getting the next couple of days off to spend time with their families.
“We were busy trying to put out the meal tonight. Next week when all the students are gone, [faculty and] staff won’t be here,” said Poulin. “And most people have time off with their families for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday before the real Thanksgiving.”