Yesterday was Chicken Tenders Day. All 12 residential colleges served hand-breaded chicken tenders lovingly paired with barbeque sauce, duck sauce and honey mustard dip — the last of which, despite its name, is probably still technically a sauce.
I like Yale’s chicken tenders. They’re pretty good in their own right, and especially good when compared to Dining’s other offerings. I’ve never actually eaten Tofu Apple Crisp, but, from what I’ve heard, Yale’s chicken tenders would likely assume a near-divine quality when compared to it. Yale’s chicken tenders even have their own website, perhaps the only website of its kind in the Ivy League. This, I will admit, is highly impressive.
At Yale, we take our tenders seriously.
My first Chicken Tenders Day was nothing short of incredible. When my grandchildren ask me about my time at Yale, I will lean back in my rocking chair, smile at the ceiling and think fondly of those two hand-breaded chicken tenders — those 557 calories! — paired perfectly with just the right amount of duck sauce. I will remember that I ate them for dinner in Calhoun, in the middle seat of a table just next to the back.
Above all, I will remember the anticipation. The night before — Chicken Tenders’ Eve — was when I first learned of Yale Dining’s famous delicacy. I didn’t know anything about Chicken Tenders Day beforehand, but I learned, I understood and I waited. I was ready, armed with my newfound knowledge before dinner. I came, I saw, I tendered. It was exquisite.
The hype of Chicken Tenders Day I transferred over to Chicken Tenders Day II: The Two Tenders. I was ready for another transcendent experience — the sort of experience that would transport me away from Yale and into a world-class restaurant devoted entirely to the production and preparation of chicken tenders.
Enter yesterday. It was lunch. I was in Branford. I placed two tenders on my plate, accented with a healthy layer of duck sauce. I ate the tenders, and they were okay.
Just okay. No “Hallelujah Chorus,” no angels heard on high, no gilded trumpets — just two perfectly decent, perfectly acceptable pieces of hand-breaded chicken.
I then experienced the five stages of Chicken Tenders Day grief. At first, I was in shock, maybe even denial. Maybe I just picked two inferior tenders from the batch — my experience merely an accident of tender selection, not a reality of taste.
Then I felt anger: Hell hath no fury like a tender-lover scorned. I cursed the higher power that fated me to two inferior chicken tenders. Then came the bargaining. Then the depression: sadness, melancholy, tender-induced gloom.
I accept Chicken Tenders Day. I still love it, even if I don’t truly love my tenders. The world is sometimes an intense place, and crime and hate. I woke up to an email message from Ronnell Higgins and news that one of the world’s most violent dictators had been killed. This is overwhelming. This is intense. But this is reality: sometimes unpredictable, sometimes absurd and shocking.
I am only 18 years old, and the world’s problems are just starting to become my problems, too. One day, all of us will be responsible for the world. We will need to fix the violence and poverty and crime and hate that plague it. One day, we will need to discuss and to solve the problems of the world from corner offices and battlefields and nonprofit boardrooms — not safely tucked away in our dining halls. Then, there will be no more chicken tenders.
Maybe Kurt Vonnegut was thinking of chicken tenders when he wrote this: “I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.’”
And sometimes, it’s the only thing that makes sense, too.
Marissa Medansky is a freshman in Morse College. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.