Uncharted Waters Theme Dinner
Inspired by pirates, mermaids, and Captain Cook, Dining Services is pulling out the stops for its April 1 theme dinner.
Start with pirates, mermaids, and bioluminescent fish. Throw in a coral reef, a scavenger hunt, surfboards, and navigating by the stars. Add delectable exotic foods. Now you have an idea of what’s in store at the Uncharted Waters dinner that—with the help of 20 Honors Forum students—will kick off SkidGenuity on Wednesday, April 1.
It started when Bonnie Bertrand, a veteran theme-dinner planner as Dining Services’ assistant supervisor for catering and special events, told history professor Tillman Nechtman of her idea for a pirate-themed dinner, and he told her about his popular Scribner Seminar “Sailing the Seas with Captain Cook.” Together they hatched the Uncharted Waters theme.
Nechtman’s aim in the course is to give students a keen sense of what it actually must have been like to be a member of Cook’s crew, visiting strange new lands and living for months on end in a three-masted schooner. Nechtman right away saw the dinner as an opportunity to share with a larger audience some of the academic content his students generated last fall in the course, which focuses on the three historic voyages Cook led into the Pacific in the late 1700s.Read More
Cook’s missions encompassed science, exploration, and empire. He and his crew torpedoed such geographical myths as the “Great Southern Continent” and “Northwest Passage.” They tested the elements, sailing further south into the Antarctic than any European ship had dared to go. And they changed European perceptions of time itself as the first sailors to use an accurate nautical timepiece, a “chronometer” they called K1.
“They left behind a world they called ‘modern’ and met diverse peoples—aboriginal Australians, New Zealand Maoris, Alaskan Inuits, and South Pacific islanders—who lived very much in the ‘past,’” notes Nechtman. “They crossed space, time, cultures, and the known and the unknown. At some point during the semester, someone always says, ‘This course isn't really about Captain Cook, is it? It’s about us.’”
Nechtman’s seminar students are working with him on the dinner—along with five students of English professor Catherine Golden, who played a key role in last year’s Alice in Wonderland–themed dinner, and history professor Erica Bastress-Dukehart, who happens to have a special interest in sea monsters.
Nechtman asked the students to pick a maritime subject and figure out a creative way to represent it in a display or interaction in Murray-Aikins Dining Hall. So it is that Andrei Tuluca ’18 will focus on bioluminescence, Alexis Traussi ’17 will work on maps and charts, Emily Meagher ’18 will cover 18th-century technologies used in navigation, and others will focus on staying healthy on a long voyage, seafaring songs of the late 1700s, and early modes of Polynesian surfing.
Great food, of course, will be the centerpiece of the event, and Dining Services is pulling out the stops to imaginatively and deliciously reinforce the theme. For appetizers, look for fried calamari and a “marsh bar” featuring steamed clams, mussels, and shrimp. Entrees will include blue-corn–crusted mahi mahi, tacos with pineapple and coconut salsa, rum-glazed flank steak, and coffee-brine roasted pork shoulder with a sweet potato and plantain mash. For dessert, you’ll find key lime pie and pineapple upside-down cake. And don’t miss the “anti-scurvy bar,” featuring three citrus drinks.
Theme dinners “always offer a lot of great interaction with students,” says Frank Esposito, Dining Services production manager. “There are a lot of moving parts that really get us going. It’s pretty cool how it all comes together.”