Big Sub 2013: Barnard and the Sandwich Factory

by Nora Jaquemet

Even tuna looks good at Big Sub.

I’m pretty sure I wrote about Big Sub in my Barnard application, citing it as an example of a bonding tradition that I would enjoy in a small school with a tight-knit community. I was therefore excited to attend my first Big Sub as a Barnard student. The experience, however, was somewhat more akin to that scene in Mean Girls where the cafeteria erupts into a huge animal fight (and if you don’t get that reference, please stop whatever you’re doing and go watch Mean Girls right now).

I set out earlier in the evening to see the preparation of the sandwich. Tables were set up all along Lehman Lawn to the Diana, and back up to the front of Barnard Hall. While I’m not normally a huge sandwich fan, the bread did look incredibly good, though I have to admit that after eating too much Hewitt everything looks great. Mostly, I was excited about the candy that was getting sprinkled all over the tables. Umm, yes please!

 Spreading the Willa Wonka candy love!

I had gone back up to my room to get a warmer coat, and when I came back fifteen minutes later there was literally no empty space in front of the sandwiches. People were jostling for the chance to stick their hands at a spot near the huge sub. That was probably the first sign that this was not going to be a civilized group meal. As the countdown started, I managed to squeeze myself between two people so that I could more easily get at the candy. Then, it was time to start and chaos erupted.

People were tearing cling wrap off and biting into their pieces of sandwich ferociously. There were girls with Tupperware and I even saw someone gleefully running away with a meter-long length of sandwich in aluminum foil. Others were running along the tables, shoving candy into bulging pockets. I shamelessly admit that I was one of those large-pocketed people. Out on the lawn there was an equally furious fight to get some real Pepsi and not be stuck with the weird Shasta Cola.

Post war.

Despite the savagery, there was music playing, Millie was dancing, and people were laughing–so I suppose there was a certain amount of school spirit and bonding involved after all. After about five minutes the sandwich was almost completely gone and a day later the Sulzberger Lobby still had crumbs on its carpet. A friend later told me, very happily, that the amount of chicken sandwich she had snagged at Big Sub meant that she didn’t have to buy dinner for the next week!

That night, my roommate and I wondered about the point of Big Sub. We concluded that Big Sub was created as a social experiment by a Psychology major to examine what would happen if a large group of cultured and well-mannered young women were presented with a lot of good free food. And somehow the tradition stuck around. It seems a likely explanation to me.

The end to a successful Big Sub.

Nora Jaquemet is a first-year at Barnard and a staff writer for The Nine Ways of Knowing.

Images courtesy of Nora Jaquemet.

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