The Bucknellian

80 turkeys later: Behind the scenes of the annual ‘Cafsgiving’

Julie Spierer, Special Features Co-Editor

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The Tradition

During the week preceding Thanksgiving break, turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, apple pie, and more are on the minds of first-years, sophomores, juniors, and seniors alike as they eagerly anticipate the return of the University’s annual Thanksgiving Dinner, affectionately known as “Cafsgiving.”

“Cafsgiving has been a tradition for longer than any of us recall,” Jay Breeding, the University Dining Director of Retail, said. “I first came to Bucknell in 2009 and it was already long established. I have heard from some community members that they even used to be a bit more formal, with guests dressing in evening wear, but that practice gradually faded away over the years.”

The University’s culinary staff begin to bone out and brine the 80 turkeys that are served to students at various stations throughout the Bostwick Cafeteria days in advance of Cafsgiving. In addition to the centerpiece turkey, the menu also requires the staff to prepare 700 pounds of mashed potatoes, 35 gallons of gravy, 300 pounds of sweet potatoes, 600 pounds of stuffing, and 225 pies, just to name a few.

“At Cafsgiving I get to shove my face full of potatoes, much like any other day of the week, but this time I get to consume potatoes surrounded by the company and holiday cheer of my fellow Bucknellians,” Izzy Wisen ’20 said.

“We may be in different grades, majors, Greek organizations, etc., but we are united by a common love for potatoes in their varying forms – mashed, sweet, and roasted to name a few. This amazing feast would not be able to happen without the incredible cafeteria staff and their positive and joyous demeanor,” she continued.

The Preparations

The usual dining service staff members prepare all of the food themselves; however, more servers and attendants are allotted to tend to the larger number of University guests. Typically, the University dining team recruits extra staff from alternate dining spots on campus in order to create a seamless evening.

“Cafsgiving is such a nice event to get together with friends and have a family-style dinner. It’s perfect timing to satisfy my stuffing craving until actual Thanksgiving comes around,” Bea Giordano ’19 said.

She continued, “We really appreciate all the preparation and hard work the Bucknell food staff puts into this event.”

Even students from outside of the United States enjoy the collaborative, school wide celebration. Sandra Madanat ’21, a first-year student from Jordan, had never experienced an American Thanksgiving before.

“I did not expect to see that many people in the caf for dinner, but when I eventually went, the food was amazing, especially the turkey!” Madanat said.

This year, dining services served just under 2000 guests for Cafsgiving, which has been around the average number the last few years.

“It was adorable to see how excited the people working were to cram a bunch of chairs into one huge circle table so that all friends could eat and laugh together. Seeing the caf flooded with people was so heartwarming, and everywhere you looked people were smiling,” Deanna Cannizzaro ’21 said.

Mitigating Food Waste

Dining services aims to minimize food waste on a daily basis. In order to do so, consumption records are kept for each meal served. In preparation for this year’s Cafsgiving, the dining team looked back on records of past Cafsgivings to gauge the quantity of food that would be adequate for this year’s festivities.

The kitchen staff also employs the waste-minimizing method of batch cooking, which essentially means consistently producing food items throughout the meal, which allows for waste reduction, as well as the presentation of fresh food. Some items do have long cook times, and so batch cooking cannot be implemented for these items. As a result, the team relies upon the records and data from past meals in order to avoid overproduction.

Breeding instills his trust in the success of these methods, stating, “if everything goes according to plan, then the leftover food will be very minimal.” He added that “the small amounts left cooked but not served are repurposed into other dishes, for example, turkey soup or turkey salad.”

The Sense of Community

“I think that Cafsgiving was the first time that I have genuinely felt like part of a greater Bucknell community since orientation. It was really nice to have what seemed like most of the student body come together in the caf, relax, and take in a really good meal. It was another one of the cool, special things that Bucknell does that made me realize how lucky I am to be here,” Will Weinfeld ’21 said.

Students feel an unmistakable sense of community in the presence of their peers, joined around a big meal.

“My favorite part of Cafsgiving is the excitement and enjoyment that it brings to the community. It’s amazing to watch the lines form over the afternoon, to hear everyone talking about how much they’re going to eat, and it’s really satisfying to see so many smiles on the faces of students and staff,” Breeding said.

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80 turkeys later: Behind the scenes of the annual ‘Cafsgiving’