Much has been written in these pages about the stuff that dreams are made of: Yale’s chicken tenders. Just two months ago, former Yale College Council President Michael Herbert ’16, despite ostensibly retiring from campus politics, made a bold push for Yale Dining to reconsider its tender policy (“Yale’s favorite dish,” Feb. 24). While we do not believe this issue can be reduced to mere felicific calculus, Herbert’s argument that Yale should bring back weekly Chicken Tenders Day (CTD) is well taken.
But it doesn’t go far enough. Yale Dining has an obligation to greatly expand its provision of chicken tenders. And this, without question, means serving tenders outside lunch hours and more frequently than Ohio Gov. John Kasich wins Republican primaries. What we propose is radical tenderization — serving tenders two, three, perhaps four times every week, at lunch and dinner. Contrary to what Herbert would have you believe, this moral obligation doesn’t stem solely from the pleasure principle. In fact, we believe that everyone at Yale, not only the few who hold genuine political, ethical and religious convictions, will find at least one of the following arguments convincing:
First, chicken tenders are good for the (student) body. Yalies are demographically at a severe risk of becoming vegetarians or, worse, vegans. Chicken tenders remind us of our place in the food chain, but don’t come with enough bones to trigger bouts of sympathy for poultry. Facing down a slice of chicken cacciatore that looks drier than Toad’s at 1 p.m. on a Tuesday almost makes vegetarianism sound appealing — but New Year’s resolutions can always wait until after CTD.
Second, chicken tenders are good for the soul. This one’s painfully obvious, so we won’t bother with an explanation.
Third, chicken tenders are good for the environment. Argue for fossil fuel divestment all you like, but there are far easier ways for Yale to go green. Chickens require fewer resources (and expel far less methane into the atmosphere) than their bovine counterparts. And while it might be a bit burdensome for the University to keep a herd of cattle on Old Campus, it’s perfectly reasonable to expect an institution as well-funded, and as well-endowed, as Yale to build an industrial-sized chicken coop up by the Yale Farm or on West Campus.
Fourth, chicken tenders foster community. We take for granted how close many of our friends are during these bright college years, but with nearly half of upperclassmen moving off campus, Yale must do more to combat the atomism and alienation that has come to characterize American life. Given the consistent excitement over CTD, serving tenders for dinner would be a simple yet effective way of reinvigorating local communities.
Fifth, chicken tenders are anti-colonial. Yale Dining is notorious for trying to flex its imaginary culinary muscle by preparing ethnic dishes with that special touch of American solipsism and a generous side of mass production. This is how we get dishes like vegan tortellini, Caribbean lasagna and potato “latkes” with the flavor and consistency of Play-Doh. This isn’t just cultural appropriation — it’s cultural mutilation. Tenders, on the other hand, are as American as the love-child of Donald Trump and Sen. Bernie Sanders. The extensive variety of sauces allows students to dress and tailor their tenders as they please. Is the dining hall serving sesame pasta salad? Try softening the blow by coating your tenders with Sriracha and sweet sauce. Cilantro mango chutney pork chops giving you the blues? Try a mix of barbeque sauce and honey mustard, for that Chick-fil-A imitation dressing. Yale’s sad attempts at ethnic cuisines will be around as long as its tax-exempt status, but chicken tenders can significantly ameliorate the assault on world cultures, many of which are already under the heel of the global capitalist order.
Sixth, chicken tender-production experiences economies of scale. As the new colleges open and Yale continues to grow, CTD can grow with it. Yale Dining has lofty ambitions with its menus, but it fails to acknowledge the virtue in selecting dishes that can feed thousands of hungry mouths three times a day. Chicken tenders are one of few dishes that can do the job. With the MCDB Department’s imminent breakthrough of a method for growing tenders in agar medium, even larger scale production will soon be possible.
Seventh, chicken tenders breed humility. Deep down, past the leather boat shoes and the Yale Model United Nations conferences, Yalies are simple people, reminded over and over again of their moral and intellectual superiority. Tenders are a simple dish, and they — not New York Times columnist David Brooks — are perhaps our best hope for restoring the youthful innocence that Yale repeatedly beats over the head with case books from Akhil Amar’s ’80 LAW ’84 “Constitutional Law” class.
This has been a year of moral reckoning for Yale. The student body has its share of disagreements, but we stand as one when it comes to the moral propriety of chicken tenders. The administration will be making many big decisions in the coming weeks; we urge it to not quit before the job is done.
David Minoli is a senior in Calhoun College. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org . Anthony Tokman is a senior in Calhoun College. Contact him at email@example.com .