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January 09, 2010



Haute Cuisine Not (1965)

Tender and exquisite palates would have received a rude shock indeed had they made an unfortunate choice at the Hunter College cafeteria one afternoon in 1965. This is what happened.

I took a Physiology lecture and lab class at that time, the lab portion of which involved all sorts of horrors: pithing a frog and excising its heart, dissecting a bull's eye, various fetal dissections, spinning around in a revolving desk chair to generate nystagmus, etc. One unit involved examining a cow's heart and lungs -- not a pretty picture. I don't know what possessed one of the students to organize a prank, but organize he did with planning as careful as that for a complex bank robbery.

He decided to appropriate part of his lab table's lung, slice it, put it between two pieces of bread, wrap it in cellophane, and insert it into an empty slot in the cafeteria's sandwich vending machine that was intended to hold a ham and cheese sandwich. He did this on a Friday and as luck would have it some poor woman thought a ham and cheese sandwich would hit the spot for lunch, selected it, and was presented with the doctored lunch. She pretty much discovered right away that something was wrong, rightfully complained, and word slowly filtered up the levels of command at Hunter.

Fast forward to Monday morning in Mr. Ramazatto's class. The faux lunch had been traced to his class and he told us so. He was composed but very angry. He said that he wanted to know who perpetrated this hoax and when no one fessed up he said he wanted the person who did it to tell him so by the end of the period that morning -- or else.

Here is where I can't exactly recall what I knew and when. I of course knew who had done it -- a laid back sort who was intelligent and had a sense of humor. He must have told some of us on Friday morning that he was thinking of doing this later that afternoon. It seemed funny, a prank, but I guess I didn't believe he would really go through with it. I also can't recall if I ever found out whether he perpetrated it all himself or had a confederate in the cafeteria. 

In any event he had no qualms about letting his intent be known. He freely told us what he would do. So it sounds like he really wanted to be caught, perhaps to reveal how clever he was. Why else would he tell people about it?

Anyway, at the end of the period we all quickly gathered our things to leave and I probably stole a glance at him before I left -- to make sure he was still there. He evidently confessed as requested and I don't think anything bad happened to him. He was not suspended but certainly must have had to apologize in some way to the woman and to the person at Hunter whose desk this particular buck -- er, cow -- stopped at. Mr. Ramazatto said no more about it to us at our next class or ever again.

It was a stupid college prank and for all I know he and the woman had a few laughs over it, began dating, got married, and lived happily ever after. But if I were that guy, even if the marriage were a happy one, I would have been afraid -- very afraid -- at mealtimes down the road.

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