As I enter Franklin Dining Commons, the stench hits me. A combination of sweet, sour and saltiness, infamously known as the “Frank Stank” seeps up through my nostrils and begins to fry my brain. But I trek up the carpeted ramp, willing to sacrifice my stomach to sure indigestion.
So, where does this smell originate? It certainly does not come from the pasta, sandwich or salad bars. All one needs to do is search for the cloud of steam arising from the campus-side of Frank: the stir-fry station.
There are two questions I must ask myself before venturing over to the line: Have I eaten yet today? Have I showered yet today? If the answer to both questions is no, I will proceed at my own risk.
First I choose my veggies, because, of course, veggies will automatically make any meal a healthy one. I wait for a frying pan to open up, during which time I consume more than half of the peppers, peas and water chestnuts that I had just placed on my tea saucer-size plate, but it’s too late to backtrack for more.
The cook dumps the veggies into the empty pan, adds garlic, chicken and a heaping pile of egg noodles. She asks me a question. I don’t understand a single word, and ask her to repeat. Her response is still incomprehensible, so I answer, “yes,” politely. She produces the result from four plastic squeeze-bottles: fountains of hoisin, teriyaki and oyster sauces, along with a a splash sesame oil. Dear God, will my taste buds survive this combination of brown sodium-laden liquid?
Then, she quips a short one-word question: “Spicy?”
The most impactful, perhaps harmful decision comes here: Do I take the risk of adding more flavors to my meal only to end my afternoon with an explosive result?
“Just a little,” I reply; to which she adds a heaping spoonful of chili paste. This will not end well.
I carry the food back to my seat, dodging the odorous steam arising from the plate, so my classmates do not have to suffer from the ghastly scent that it surely will implant into my skin.
No matter, I purposefully wore an old sweatshirt and sweatpants – my usual Franklin gear – which I planned to change out of and possibly torch immediately following my meal.
As I take my first bite, the flavor is overwhelming: much better than the smell. The spiciness bites at the back of my nose, reminding me of what is soon to come. I make it most of the way through the meal, but not even my empty stomach can handle the entire mountainous pile of food. A few noodle strands and peas remain, which my chopsticks could not conquer. I stand up and walk out, surely reeking of the food I just consumed.
I walk back across the street to my dorm, my stomach furiously gurgling in response to the decision I just made. But it’s done.
Thirty minutes later, my digestive system gets its payback. I vow to never return to the stir-fry station, but I know I’ll be back, and my intestines will scream bloody murder yet again.
Taylor Snow is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at email@example.com.