Barnard College is all about tradition. Every year, a few college-wide events take over campus to honor Barnard’s history, its students and more with events ranging from Founder’s Day, which commemorates Barnard’s birthday, Midnight Breakfast, a middle-of-the-night feast at which deans, faculty and staff serve breakfast to students the night before final exams begin, and Spirit Day, a day-long party celebrating students’ school spirit.
One program in particular is especially unique in its style, mission, duration, and food. Every October, the McIntosh Activities Council (McAC) at Barnard College hosts Big Sub, a food-focused, college-wide event that features a 700 plus-foot sub snaking around Barnard’s campus for students and staff alike to enjoy.
This fall’s sub was 712 feet long to correspond with the year of the graduating class: 2012. I’m sure we’ve all eaten a foot-long sub sandwich, right? Now, picture 700 of those little buggers all lined up in a row. Located in upper Manhattan, Barnard has carved out just four acres of space on this small island, so a 712-foot sandwich that stretches well over two city blocks inevitably dominates the entire campus for one night each year.
How can we possibly build a 712-foot sandwich and, most importantly, what do we put on it? It takes at least four hours to assemble some 356 loaves of bread, 87 pounds of deli turkey, 26 pounds of ham, 90 pounds of cheese, 20 pounds of diced chicken, 296 pounds of vegetables, 100 pounds of tuna, 4 gallons of mayo, 180 pounds of lettuce and 75 pounds of sliced tomatoes. Thousands of confetti-topped toothpicks are stuck in the bread to section individual portions, and each loaf is sliced 5-6 times. Knowing where to put which combination of ingredients is tricky, and for that, we use a map.
This trusty diagram also allows students to precisely plan the exact sandwich spot at which they want to await the stroke of 7:00pm. (They know not to touch the sandwich until the 10-second countdown has concluded.) Though you might think this eating extravaganza is akin to a marathon feast, it is more like a sandwich sprint. The entire sub is consumed in just minutes – we broke the record this year with a 5 minute total.
This year, I’m president of McAC and was fortunate enough to participate in the building – and of course, eating – of the sub. I caught up with Zoe Namerow, BC ’13, the chairperson of the Time-Out committee that hosts Big Sub. She answered a few questions about this treasured Barnard tradition that turned 10-years-old this year.
Maria Russo: How long does it take to plan Big Sub? What goes into planning?
Zoe Namerow: Months! I begin brainstorming themes for the event about three months ahead and request that [committee] members send me any ideas that pop into their heads over the summer. Once the school year begins, we jump into full planning mode, breaking into sub-committees that handle decorations, t-shirt designs, food specifications, publicity, etc. We spend the month leading up to Big Sub purchasing, scheduling, reserving and meeting with food services to discuss details.
MR: What’s your favorite part of Big Sub?
ZN: I love the process of planning events and focusing on details to make an event run as smoothly as possible. But overall, my favorite part is the event itself. It is remarkable to see an organization come together, in the midst of heavy schoolwork, to build a 712-foot sandwich! The hours leading up to the 7:00pm start time are exciting as we set-up, decorate and build the sandwich itself.
What I think is so amazing about this event is that although it takes months to plan, this year the sandwich was gone in 5 minutes! It is so interesting to observe how the students react to the sub – staking out a particular section, bringing Tupperware and boxes, and of course, eating together. It’s a wonderful tradition that I hope will live on at Barnard.
MR: How do you come up with the theme, and how did you arrive at this year’s theme: “The Yellow SUBmarine”?
ZN: Themes are always a collaborative effort driven by what we think the student body would enjoy and have fun with. Sometimes we look at current events, movies, popular culture, etc. But other times we look for a theme that would appeal to everyone. This year, we revived the original theme of Big Sub, “The Beatles.” Not only was it fantastic to revive the very first theme, but also it was a theme that nearly everyone likes, is familiar with and can appreciate.
Maria Russo is a Barnard College senior and has proudly staked out the Turkey & Cheese section of Big Sub for four consecutive years.