08/24/2011 04:25 pm ET | Updated Oct 24, 2011

Dynamics of a Lobster Bake

Bowdoin's annual lobster bake is not merely a lobster bake. The anthropology of our arthropod fête will tell you everything you need to know about the College.

It begins with the victorious march of returning students, as ships approaching port (if port was the welcome lap of Bowdoin Dining Services.) Traipsing across the green expanse beyond the field house, they greet old comrades with romanticism worthy of John Knowles: "Bro! How you been?"

Out comes the dusty OneCard, the currency of the land, slightly cracked from the pressure of an athletic posterior. Buoyed by rank, the upperclassmen enter, surveying their kingdom of portable banquet tables and disposable tablecloths.

Reinforced paper plate in hand, physics majors gravitate toward a known quantity. Though sometimes interspersed with the other sciences, EOS majors are easily identified by the dam of coleslaw crossing their plate -- protecting their blueberry cake from an onslaught of lobster juice.

Quietly slurping away at salty cake, the first year students make tentative connections. Not yet Brunswickians, they are easily distinguished by geographical region. A slight Midwestern boy stares with awe at his tray. Finally nudged by his roommate from Greenwich he whispers, "If that ain't the biggest crawfish I've ever seen..."

Daddy Clawbucks, an enterprising Portlander, slips a pair of sterling lobster crackers from a leather holster. He simultaneously opens two lobsters, one for each girl on his knee. Suddenly, there's a commotion at the end of the table as Sandy SoCal prepares to down a butter shot. "Pacific," Greenwich sneers.

But all heads turn to watch the entrance of the pastel mafia. Daddy stands up to salute, dumping the Twin Cities onto the lawn. "Econ majors," explains Sandy, sucking on a leg.

The crusaders of Our Lady of Madras, bearing those shields of UV protection -- the Bans of Marriage, patronized by the Seer of Sucker. To the victors belong the spoils of Golden Fleece, and ponies trotted under perfectly aligned teeth -- the unifying Crest.

Attention is short kept, for a horn sounds and a race around the banquet begins. The cross-country team, their limbs nautical knots of muscle, leads the pack. A jester in a Bear suit stumbles along behind, before planting his snout in a pile of Lab doodle.

His friends spout chowder out their noses, breaching what was surely an awkward silence. The Bear is lifted over head by a pod of Epicureans, 1700 years late for a toga party. The crowd applauds. The pile of compost rises.

The Midwesterner suggests ice cream, but everyone seems too full of Blackberries. He wanders off to start his novel.

Like a precious pearl nestled inside a New England oyster, the heart and soul of the school rests on a bed of tomalley: the young, the restless, and sometimes the shellfish.