Written with Micah Mayborn, fellow MCL content creator.
5 hours and 16 minutes. 18,960 seconds. This was how long it took for Micah and I to step triumphantly past the boundary of mere MCL content creators and into the realm of the impossible. 5 hours. 16 minutes. That was the length of time it took for Micah and I to reach the summit of Vanderbilt student accomplishment. This article tells a tale that will be repeated for generations. This article tells of the journey of a lifetime. This article tells the story of the day that Micah Mayborn and Spencer McKee ate at all of Vanderbilt University’s dining halls in one day.
Our tale begins on one fateful Tuesday evening during which my eternal quest to accomplish the most useless achievements known to humankind shone through spectacularly. While eating dinner at Commons I was simultaneously attempting to drum up ideas for articles. I sat and thought and thought and sat. I remained deep in thought while sipping a glass of water, and with furrowed brow I gripped my fork tightly while I nibbled a cookie. No thoughts came; my head was empty. I sat puzzled. But then, then! A spark. A grand vision; like an ancient oracle speaking directly to my mind through the beige, crumb-speckled plate before me. That ethereal voice from beyond cried out and then vanished, leaving only three words: “The dining halls!”I was at first bewildered by such an enigmatic statement, my mind raced to comprehend it. What could this possibly mean? I pondered. I pleaded to the voice to provide the clarification I needed. It finally returned, leaving one last message that sounded a lot like the rushed disclaimers at the end of cell phone commercials: “Oh yeah, except for McGugin.” And then it struck me. The road to true glory lay before me and I could see its gilded path. The prophecy would be fulfilled. The hour had struck! The time had come for the summit to be breached. It was time for each of Vanderbilt’s Dining Halls to be eaten at in one day. I immediately knew that such a task was beyond the reach of just one student alone, so I turned to my friend and fellow MCLer Micah for aid. Together, I knew that we would be able to overcome the daunting challenge that lay before us. We planned our quest for Thursday, October 19th, the very first day of fall break. We met the night before to discuss our strategy for the coming morrow, hunched over our penne pasta in the corner of Rothschild as if we were planning a bank heist. We plotted quietly in preparation, trying to discern what the best strategy would be. Where would we go first? Would we be logical and space out each location throughout the day? Or would we attempt an ambitious speedrun? We eventually settled on an attempt to see how fast we could complete the challenge. Our day would begin at Commons for breakfast, E. Bronson Ingram for brunch immediately after, then following with Rand lunch, Kissam tea-time, Rothschild pre-dinner, and at last finishing with Zeppos for dinner. As we charted our course in hushed voices we felt the prickling of greatness lying in wait just around the corner. The excitement was building. A storm was gathering before us, and we were going to weather it at all costs. We wondered if this was madness or brilliance, that there surely couldn’t have been many people with the amount of stupidity or bravery to attempt such a thing. Surely even Cornelius himself would have thought this to be beyond the capability of mere mortals like us. After about an hour of intense discussion we finalized our plan and looked up, realizing that we were one of the last people still remaining in Rothschild for the night. We hurriedly gathered our backpacks and jackets, departing into the slight chill of the Wednesday evening. We left each other with a quote from Homer’s Odyssey: “Delivering early to the voice of fame The promise of a green immortal name.” It was with this burning spirit that we parted ways for the evening, filled with excitement for the day to come.
I awoke the following day at 9:00 A.M. to my blaring alarm clock heralding the start of the day. For a minute I laid in bed and stared at the ceiling, hardly registering the piercing squawk of my phone that screeched at me to snooze it. As I prepared for the day I cast all doubt aside; I was ready to face the task that would make even Guy Fieri tremble. I threw on my clothes, washed my face, and took one last deep breath before leaping off the precipice into the deep unknown. I was to meet Micah first at Commons for breakfast to begin the challenge. We gathered outside the front doors and prepared ourselves one final time before the great journey to glory. We looked at each other, nodded once, and threw open the doors. We walked hastily to the scanners that flank the entrance to the dining hall and scanned in. The game was afoot; the hunt was on! The race against time and the battle against the odds had begun at 9:30 A.M.
Because it was the first day of fall break it was largely deserted, reminiscent of a ghost town filled with the smell of bacon. My first meal of the day contained a waffle, potatoes, eggs, cheddar-jalapeño sausage, and water.
Micah’s was no different, save for a glass of orange juice and no grapes.
To be completely honest it felt just like any other breakfast. The waffle and eggs were fluffy, the potatoes crisp. The sausage was suspect at best, and the grapes were indeed grapes. The only distinction given to this particular breakfast was that in addition to the questionable tang of the sausage, I also held in my mouth the weight of history; the hopes and dreams of all who had come before in search of this, the holy grail. We finished eating at 10:00 A.M. and set off for EBI.
We arrived to the brick-laden fortress at 10:20 A.M. and felt the need to document our presence with this picture:
We stepped inside, took a breath of that ever-so-fresh EBI air, and scanned into our next dining hall at 10:22 A.M. I noticed that the room looked a lot bigger without people in it. The Harry Potter vibes were strong that morning in the vacant hall. Hogwarts wishes it had our view of Alumni Lawn.
Micah and I took a seat and then hopped in line for brunch, with similar breakfast smells as Commons wafting from the kitchen. This plate of food consisted of tater tots, cantaloupe, and a biscuit with gravy. Micah’s mirrored mine as well. The biscuit was flaky and perfectly complemented with the thick fluidity of the gravy. The crispy tater tots obviously slapped, and the cantaloupe was fresh and juicy as ever.
After we finished our second meal of the day we left our plates on the conveyor belt and took off to explore other areas of the residential college.
On our side quest we came across EBI’s library, as well as a painting of this gentleman who we absolutely don’t remember the name of. We love a good 0.5.
After we completed our exploration of this mahogany and leather-lover’s dream we again set off, this time headed to Rand. We scanned at our third destination at 11:15 A.M. We were in the thick of it now. We walked into the iconic dining hall, took three steps, and stopped dead in our tracks. There was something wrong, very wrong here. There were no lines.
No queue for the Mongolian bowls, no shuffling procession for the Rand cookies, and certainly no 20-minute wait for the Randwich. It was a thing of beauty – nay, an unprecedented glimpse into utopia. Micah and I felt like kids in a candy store, except the gumballs were our hopes and dreams and the chocolate was just chocolate. We decided on the Mongolian bowl, in which we got white rice, chicken, tofu, broccoli, and two spring rolls.
Don’t ask why Micah’s smiling like he’s about to murder me. Maybe it was because I dragged him into a ludicrous mission from hell. Beats me.
I hate to say it, but these bowls were a miss. We both agreed that the chicken didn’t taste very fresh and that the broccoli was just a tad slimy. The silver lining of this meal was that the Rand cookie was delicious as always. After we finished lunch we tried to visit our boss, deep in the bowels of Sarratt, but unfortunately he wasn’t in. Note the clear disappointment on our faces.
We left, deeply saddened, and trudged back upstairs to meet the glow of sunlight and the next dining hall that awaited us: Kissam. We were halfway to the finish line, and there was no stopping us now. The clock was ticking. Three down, three to go. It was time to journey to the edge of campus.
At 12:20 P.M. we arrived at Kissam.
And it was bad. Very bad. I had previously never been to this side of the universe and hopefully I won’t have to return anytime soon. While the exterior of Moore and Warren was quite scenic, the meal that Micah and I had was quite the opposite.
I got a bowl with salmon, brown rice, edamame, and mandarin orange slices, and Micah got a salad with lots of greens.
The second I bit into that salmon I knew I had made a mistake. Maybe it was my own fault for not judging a book by its cover and failing to recognize that the salmon looked really really not like salmon. After regretfully swallowing one piece I turned to the mandarin oranges. Surely they would salvage this experience. But this sadly wasn’t the case. They were somehow spicy??? I couldn’t comprehend the cacophony of flavors and textures that were reverberating in my mouth. I somehow managed to put down another few spoonfuls before vowing never to return to this dining hall. It should be noted that Micah said his salad tasted incredibly like a salad.
Thumbs down. On to the next.
It was now time for the last leg of the journey. There were now two more dining halls standing between us and everlasting glory. Breakfast already felt like hours, even days ago. We met fellow MCL content creator Sariha for lunch at Rothschild, pictured below. As we walked to our penultimate destination we could feel the anticipation mounting. It felt so close, and it was getting closer with every step. We scanned in at 1:30 P.M. and were soon met by a smiling Sariha, waving us over to her table in the corner.
For lunch they were serving popcorn shrimp sandwiches and fries, which the three of us all happily devoured.
I’m very happy to say that I felt redeemed from Kissam–the fries weren’t overly salty, and the sandwich had just enough of each inner element to satisfy. The side salad was also salad.
Micah and I finished our 5th meal of the day and bid goodbye to Sariha. We then turned to face the Tower and the final dining hall that lay before us: Zeppos. Victory was so close that we could almost taste it (as well as all of the food that we had eaten already). We took another side quest before attempting to summit the last peak on the mountain of our mission, this time visiting the Wellness Room in the lobby of Rothschild. It was here that we found some incredibly comfy chairs as showcased by Micah here:
Turns out eating a minimum of 5 meals in one day takes a toll on a man.
After a brief recharging session we walked back outside and strode one step further to immortality. As we headed towards Zeppos we felt like we were walking in slow motion. Or maybe it was just the food coma setting in. Either way, we were tired, sleepy, and ready for one last dance with the Campus Dining staff.
We stepped inside with excitement and determination. This was it. The chips were down. I could hear the theme song from Rocky playing in my head. We scanned in at 2:20 P.M. and approached the counter. I stepped to the glass barrier and ordered a flatbread with marinara, mozzarella, black olives, and chicken. I also got a Rice Krispie Treat and cranberry juice.
Micah decided that since this was the last stop on the Insanity Express it was time for dessert, so he picked up a Rice Krispie Treat and a chocolate muffin.
The flatbread was toasted to perfection, with the tangy olives providing a wonderful balance to the slight zest of the chicken. The Rice Krispie Treats were sweet and gooey as ever, and Micah said that the chocolate muffin crumbled and caved in his mouth.
And at last I get to write the line: We finished eating. At long last we had reached the crest. I turned to Micah and told him to stop his timer that had been running the entire time.
For 5 hours and 16 minutes we had seen nothing but a whirl of scanners, plates, utensils, and napkins. We had experienced and done the impossible. We had eaten up 12 meal swipes between us and it wasn’t even 3:00 P.M. yet. During our reflection on this experience Micah provided a quote that I felt perfectly encapsulated our voyage: “Putting so much into me took so much out of me.”
We had traveled the universe of dining halls, collecting the infinity stones that led us to eternal honor.
We arose from our seats and went back outside. We blinked, stepping into the sun with a new outlook on life. We had been changed by this Dining Hall Odyssey. We had climbed the mountain, we had fought the battle, we had persevered and had reached the summit of student glory. The two takeaways that I gleaned from this vast expedition were as follows: don’t eat at Kissam, and certainly do more dumb things with your friends.