For 35 years, Boston University has cracked thousands of shells annually to celebrate Lobster Night with some of Maine’s finest seafood. But the tradition has never had to continue during a pandemic — until this year.
Things looked different this Thursday. For one, there weren’t any full lobsters for students. In years past the University has provided around 8,000 crustaceans, each student getting their own boiled lobster. But with fewer students on campus and other safety restrictions, BU Dining Services opted for lobster rolls served cold this time.
BU spokesperson Colin Riley said BU felt it necessary to continue the annual event despite some of the health challenges COVID-19 imposed.
“[Lobster Night] is the most famous in students’ favorite specialty night for dining during the year,” Riley said. “So I think it was really important, and I know that [BU Dining] felt the same way, that it was critical and important to continue to offer it in whatever ways they could. They found nice workarounds there.”
Upon entering, students were asked to take one ticket and exchange it for one menu item in the dining hall. Throughout all of BU’s dining halls, signage on the floor directs foot traffic and marks where students should queue while social distancing at various food counters. Despite there being limited seating available, all meals were packaged in takeout containers for students to eat elsewhere.
While there were major changes to the campus custom, Riley said the main priority was ensuring a safe dining experience and still staging an adequate installment of the annual event. He said that adhering to safety regulations, though simple, was important and necessary.
“We’re trying to reduce in-person, face-to-face interactions, and of course, we want to make sure everyone takes basic precautions of mask-wearing and good hygiene,” Riley said. “So sanitation, cleanliness and safe distancing are the keys.”
BU Dining also recorded a cooking demonstration with Campus Culinary Director Christopher Bee, which showed students how to create the New England delicacy in their own homes if they were unable to attend on campus this year.
College of Arts and Sciences senior Emily Scrementi was among the students who did partake in Lobster Night 2020 on campus at Marciano Commons. Scrementi said she was surprised at the menu this year, and that she enjoyed this year’s festivities more than those of the past.
“I really like just being able to grab it and go, especially on a night like this where the dining hall is normally madness,” Scremeni said. “They have some really good options, like I don’t really eat meat, and they have vegan lobster mac and cheese.”
Along with the lobster roll and macaroni and cheese, students could also grab regularly offered dining hall dessert — snickerdoodles, brownies or strawberry bars.
Scrementi also said the crowd was much smaller this year — when lines often wrap around the Yawkey Center for Student Services long before lobster is served, this year’s event kicked off quietly at 5 p.m.
Juneau Wang, a freshman in CAS, wrote in a Facebook message that he thought BU’s commitment to the campus tradition, while addressing and enforcing safety concerns amid the pandemic, was appreciated. He said he enjoyed his first taste of Lobster Night — although he wasn’t quite satisfied with the portion size.
“I was thoroughly impressed with the implementation of lobster night this year, especially as it followed the health guidelines,” Wang wrote. “I just wish I could’ve gotten more than [one] lobster roll.”
Looking onward, Riley said he hopes freshmen like Wang, along with transfer students, can get their traditional full lobster at next year’s event, when the University and the country might be under different circumstances.
“Maybe we can look forward to post-COVID, this Fall next year, returning to a full dining experience with boiled lobster,” Riley said, “so that the students who, it’s their first experience, learn how to break the shell and enjoy the lobster with Indian butter.”