On Thursday evening, Yours Truly traveled with a friend to the Graduate School for dinner. For those of you who do not know, Princeton is focused on the undergraduate experience. Unlike most other universities that devote many resources to graduate students, Princeton is centered on undergraduates. For that reason, the Graduate School is really far away from everything else.
We walked down College Road and immediately noticed the sweeping vistas of the golf course.
Upon arrival, Cleveland Tower loomed above the college. It was immense! The pictures do not capture its true size. We explored the dorms for a few minutes before dinner. Unlike the undergraduate dorms, all was quiet. Silence was a mask. The students were busy studying, I assume. It was pretty obvious, by all of the picture-taking, that we were tourists. Even though the undergraduate dorms are impressive architecturally, the graduate college’s go one step further. They had a certain solemness that comes with age.
We were stunned as we entered their dining hall. It was magnificent! Forget the Rockefeller-Mathey dining hall, this is the true Hogwartsy place to eat. The room looked as though it were a converted church. There was an organ in the front and a huge stain glass window in the back. I could not tell if this place was a wizardry school or a monastery. The food was decent (although I have been told they make it fresh only on Thursdays). I had chicken parmesan with some assorted vegetables and a stuffed bell pepper. They also had a local chef cooking custom order shrimp dishes. For dessert, I ate an exquisite chocolate fudge cake. By far, Thursday night dinner at the graduate school has the best food of all the dining halls. I may have to turn this into a regular Thursday event.
A side note about dining halls. All of them serve spa water. I always drink it because it makes me feel privileged (as if going to Princeton doesn’t do this already).
Back to the main story. A few years ago, I met a neighbor of my aunt in Ohio. He went to MIT as an undergraduate and Princeton as a graduate student. This man told me that, back in the day, grad students wore black robes and listened to prayers in Latin before eating. He also mentioned that the place was like a monastery in that it was always silent. There are still a number of remnants of this bygone era at the Princeton Graduate School.
We returned to the undergraduate college by crossing the golf course. The University is planning to build things on it in 10 years when the lease to the country club (the real one, not Forbes) expires. Too bad. It makes a good shortcut for forays into the Graduate School.