I consider Friday nights a prime time to seek out fantastic food. Actually, any free time could be used for the same purpose, but Fridays carry a quality of end-of-the-week adventure that leads to the most interesting food experiences. The promise of a free, three-course meal, therefore, lured me into Swarthmore’s annual Dapper Dining event.
The premise of the event is to prepare students for formal, work-related dining experiences they may have in the future. Not only were we served with good food, but also a number of lessons on proper business etiquette and eating. We began with an hour of networking among a sea of strangers. As a freshman, this served as an opportunity to connect with students in my potential major areas and develop informal networks. I heard funny stories about failed internships and the common annoyance of the infinite submission of summer job resumes. There was an intimidating premise that in a short few years all of us would be out in the world seeking employment. A topic typically avoided out of fear, I appreciated a chance to tap into the experience of older students.
Along with soft skills and conversation, leader Robert Shutt highlighted some quick tips.
Always hold your glass in your left hand so the condensation does not make handshaking an awkward, clammy encounter. Do not stand by the snack table and merely consume food for the entirety of the event. We touched on the challenge of defining business casual or smart casual, contextualized for a college community where daily clothing choices are unimportant.
We finally reached the seated food portion of the night, accompanied by much more food. In the form of short mnemonic devices, I learned a the art of ordering, cutting cherry tomatoes, and avoiding warlike use of table knifes. These lessons sparked lively conversation of bear encounters, and a peculiar account of a tiger which once walked into one student’s high school classroom. I recounted a few attempts to bake and cook in a college dorm kitchen, which were met by a number of bizarre recommendations for makeshift supplies.
I did not foresee three courses of a meal requiring three hours of my time. However, I walked away from the night grateful that Swat develops programs that are enticing and valuable both as preparation for the future, and to meet new people.