Each and every EPIIC symposium boasts a plethora of Dunkin’s doughnuts. This year the selection included heart-shaped, cream-filled Valentine’s day leftovers. As my mother pointed out, these probably been around for longer than the average doughnut. Throughout the four-day conference, I tried to tune into the turbulent dialogue surrounding the presence of these innocent-looking pastries. To eat or not to eat?
Some reactions I heard were:
“This is a global health symposium. I can’t believe there are doughnuts!”
“I don’t really want one but I’m bored. My stomach is bored, too.”
“Well, you know what they say. Free food, no calories.”
People were constantly milling around and glancing longingly at the lined-up collection of chocolate, glazed, and jelly, presumably running through internal debates about the consequences of giving into the temptation of one (or more). This made me think about the competing messages in this situation: on the one hand, our society values getting the bang for our buck. Eating something in a public setting without paying for it is equivalent to winning the lottery, especially for college kids. There’s the expression “no such thing as free lunch,” and these doughnuts represent the success of cheating the system. On the other hand, doughnuts are notoriously indulgent and symbolize indifference to health and self-restraint. They were accessible and numerous, and in the end it seemed like most people ate as many as they wanted.