We also went to an Italian banquet today. It was Italian in that there were mountains of excellent Italian food and everybody played an Italian bowling-type game which is supposedly the oldest game in the world. But actual Italians, there were only two. There were more Slavs than Italians, with several second-generation Czechs, me, dressed in the colors of the Ukrainian flag from head to toe, and two Russians, one good and one bad.
Most of the organizers and the attendees were Irish. Nothing happens around here if the Irish don’t organize, obviously. Some people referred to themselves as “Dutch Irish,” which I don’t know what it means because it’s hard to keep track of all the varieties of Irish. I say this lovingly, of course.
My department came up with the idea of the banquet but an Italian cultural organization (consisting of all those Irish folks) funded it. When we asked them what the budget was, they said, “we’ll eat! We’ll drink! We won’t talk budget! Just get food.” After a series of painful and fruitless efforts to get a specific number out of the Italian-adjacent Irish, we went ahead and bought mountains of food. We are used to public university scarcity, and it felt weird to be able to order whatever we wanted for the event and to be told to order more.
It went amazingly well. Even the bad Russian didn’t manage to mar the festivities for me. I’d say the best part of the event for me was to see a group of 70-year-old men discuss how they all were together in first grade. And they still hang out together!