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Last week, as part of the International Festival, hundreds of CMU students and their guests crowded McConomy Auditorium to observe a cooking demonstration by Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto. The cooking demo went on for two hours; all the while Morimoto and his assistant cooked a variety of complex dishes including fresh lobster and a sashimi platter. After the event there was some ambiguity as to what would happen to the food. To many people?s surprise, audience members rushed the stage, grabbed whatever they could with their hands, and
devoured it.
During the event Morimoto had joked about the possibility that it would be auctioned off. Many people, including myself, assumed that administrators would get to eat the food or that it would be assigned randomly based on ticket number, or even that the first two rows would be asked to stay after everyone else left and would then get to eat the food. Any of these options would have been acceptable. Instead, people felt the need to charge the stage and to cram down their throats in seconds what it had taken Morimoto hours to produce.
One student ran up and grabbed half a lobster. Others planted themselves in a choice position and began eating. One participant admitted to pushing and clawing just to get one piece of sashimi. People even walked off with the ingredients such as the raw wasabi root. Morimoto was our guest at CMU, and students took his art and destroyed it. No one who was a part of the feeding frenzy was able to savor the food or give it the attention that a two-hour preparation demanded. In short, the behavior of students after the demo was completely unacceptable.
While there were many reasons for the appalling incident after the cooking demo, I think the occurrence speaks to a bigger problem on our campus: the way CMU students react to food. Food is a major problem on this campus beyond simply having more dining options. Many students seem to lack the knowledge of how to enjoy food and eat it in a civil manner.
Having written several food reviews for the The Tartan, I know that good food is available close to campus and it is available quite cheaply. The majority of CMU students can afford food? ? perhaps not food of Iron Chef quality, but basic sustenance. So our students should not become frenzied at the sight of food. Even though students occasionally treat food as a necessity, they care deeply about its quality, as evidenced by yearly complaints about Dining Services.
If people care enough about food to demand better-quality food on campus, they should care about creating a positive food atmosphere. What happened at the Iron Chef event was disgusting and can be seen in various degrees at some other free food events on campus. Most of us can remember a time where some food was being given away for free at an event or meeting and people made a mad rush for it. I can personally attest to being present at events where pizza was served and some people grabbed three slices and gobbled them up one after the other, while people slower to get to the food got none. I?ve even asked friends why they always eat free pizza even after they are sick of it. They responded that because it?s free they feel compelled to eat it. As a campus, we need to get out of this mentality.
Imagine if after the cooking demonstration, instead of everyone running for the food, someone stood up and announced that the food was for the people in the first row and they took it calmly into another room. The food could have been given the attention it ought to have had and the diners would have had a much better experience.
It?s almost paradoxical how people who watched the skill and care Morimoto put into cooking for two hours could treat food in that manner. We all need to change the way we think about food. As college students we all eat food in class sometimes and perhaps skip meals occasionally. This is normal. What isn?t normal is a feeding frenzy at the sight of free food. We aren?t victims of starvation; we aren?t poverty-stricken. We can afford to treat food in a more dignified way. Food is a wonderful part of life; it brings us together as people. We need to give it and our fellow diners the attention and courtesy they deserve.