Last night Semester at Sea held its first all-ship social event, a set of games based on the TV show Family Feud. I came in near the end of the activity, to the “union” auditorium, which was packed. Moderators were taking turns reading out “best pick-up lines” that students and faculty had submitted, and I soon detected a theme: FOOD. Many of these “pick up lines,” featured some kind of invitation to eat, most often in the context of what is known on the ship as “snack time.” This event occurs every night at 10:00, but last night was the first time I’d heard of it. Just as I was settling in to listen to the rest of this event, one of the moderators rang a bell and said, “So that’s it, folks. SNACK TIME.’ Thank goodness I hadn’t stood up, because I would have been mowed down by a moving sea of students rushing out the door and down to the dining room—like lemmings or like those sheep in “Babe” rushing en masse to the edge of a cliff before being turned back just in the nick of time by heroic sheep dogs. There was no turning this tide back, however, and so I trailed along behind them as they surged into the dining room, where harried looking crew were hauling out tray after tray of sandwiches, cake, and fruit. I didn’t stay to watch, but I did begin to “get” what all those snack time jokes were about!
Of course students are always notoriously hungry, but they are moreso on this ship, which is moving constantly: we have learned that it takes a lot of energy (and burned calories) just to keep balanced as we walk from fore to aft and from deck to deck. There are seven decks, and some days I have gone up and down them seven or eight times—and when we’re in port getting down from the ship to the ground involves fifty very steep steps. So everyone—not just the students—are remarking on how hungry they feel. And boy are they feeding us. I don’t eat breakfast (well, I have an orange or apple in my cabin), but they serve up a big one every morning, with eggs (scrambled, omelets, etc.) and ham or bacon along with all kinds of potatoes, pancakes, waffles, pastries, and cereal. There’s a toast machine going constantly and vats of peanut butter and jam.
Lunch, which is from 12:00 to 1:30, always features a big salad bar, and after four days at sea I am beginning to wonder how they are managing to serve fresh lettuces, tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, onions, mushrooms, radishes—and other salad veggies—every single day. In addition, they set up a sandwich bar (yesterday we had blue cheese and pear crostini or pastrami and swiss on rye), a soup kettle (yesterday was lentil), and then an entire set of entrees. Lots of vegetarian dishes (braised eggplant, tofu this and that, veggie pastas galore, stir fried veggies) and other dishes: yesterday they served a delicious chicken curry with basmati rice along with a beef stew and grilled tilapia. Also a huge basket of rolls. Also a special dessert or two: yesterday they offered chocolate pudding and almond cake; other times we have had brownies, pineapple upside down cake, apple strudel . . . . You get the picture. And that’s just for lunch. Dinner (from 5:30 to 7:30) features more of the same—and they are invited to have up to two glasses of wine with their dinners if they want.
In addition to the dining room meals, the ship runs a snack bar beside the pool on the top deck. I just discovered it yesterday by accident when I went up to check out the pool. This was about 3;30 in the afternoon—and the snack bar was mobbed by students ordering hamburgers and hot dogs and fries: something to tide them over between lunch and dinner!
It’s almost time for lunch now and I have worked up an appetite writing about all this food. So I’m headed to the dining room to get something to eat and to take my first malaria pill, which needs to be accompanied by food and/or milk. Tonight the ship’s doctor will give us a talk about malaria: my prescription is to take a pill the day before entering a malaria area (the Amazon in this case) and continue taking them throughout the time there and then for seven days afterwards, which will get us near Ghana, where we have to take malaria pills again. I hope all that food will wash this first one down!