Tuesday, February 28, 2012

'E' is for Exchange Dinners

The ABC of Oddities continues! Except that this time I'm jumping a few letters and going straight to E for exchange dinners...

So. In addition to formal dinners and guest nights, colleges also organize dinners whereby two colleges will invite each other to their respective formal dinners, in a manner such that the same group of students hosting one week will be the ones visiting the other. In other words, it's an insitutionalized way of socialising and discovering other colleges. The various logistics of organizing and getting a spot for such an exchange dinner are tedious (and vary from college to college), so I shan't bother you with those. I will however tell you that exchange dinners are a great way to spend whatever money the college automatically charges you each semester for a meal plan and which you refuse to spend eating bland-to-mediocre food at the college Dining Hall. (Chicken. Potatoes. Carrots. Swedes. Again and again and again...! But I digress.)

By the way, this is what the South Building, where Hilda's dining hall is
located -- see that protruding rectangle in the left corner?.

This term, our MCR has been extremely active and put together not one, nor two, but SIX (!) exchange dinners. (Which really means 12 meals, 6 "at home" and 6 "away" at other colleges.) Exchange dinners are a fun but time-consuming affair. On one hand, you get to discover the people, atmosphere and food of other colleges, which is great fun and always exciting. On the other hand, tradition begs that exchange dinners first begin with a champagne reception (usually at 7pm, after you've rushed over from your class and happen to have an less-than-ideal empty stomach). Then there is dinner itself , generally appetizer-main-dessert, though some colleges *ahemStCatzahem* do 4 courses. Then the whole thing is followed by port or second desserts (port + cheeses), which is one of those inexplicable traditions that no one particularly likes (the port, not the cheeses) but that we absolutely cannot get rid of.

As mentioned, the exchanges that I've participated in have been with Mansfield, St-Anne's, St-Catherine (aka. St-Catz) and Lady Margaret Hall (aka. LMH). For a myriad of reasons, I've only done the "away" leg of the exchanges at Mansfield and St-Anne's, but I did do the "home" leg of all the other dinners. It's been great meeting new people (and better acquainted with current classmates), as well as visiting other colleges' dining halls and common rooms. I particularly liked Mansfield's common room (which is literally up a freaking tower!) and was rather impressed with St-Anne's formal food (lamb! white chocolate tart! actually delicious port!). However, we have been incredibly lax with our photography (too busy gawking and socialising, hah), so forgive me for the lack of pictures. In fact I only have one...

St-Catz at Hilda's: somehow our table ended up being 70% lawyers...

And here are some pictures of Mansfield which I stole from the Internet:

Mansfield. Looks gothic, but actually built in the 19th Century!
Practically brand-new by Oxford standars!

Dining Hall in faux-medieval style.  Remember Merton? Like that, but more
colourful. And newer.  And cozier (there's only three long benches!)

(Photo credit: my camera, friend's FB, Google Image.)

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