The men of the University of Wisconsin–Whitewater InterVarsity chapter who volunteered to make dinner for the women of the chapter didn’t claim it was an original idea. But it seemed like a nice gesture to show the women respect and appreciation. The men acknowledged that the college campus culture is not necessarily conducive to healthy relations between men and women.
Chapter president Zach Kuehne said that when the dinner idea occurred to him, he was thinking of spaghetti on the menu. Tyler Sailsbery would have none of it. “There’s a free spaghetti dinner every Wednesday, so how is this showing them much appreciation?” he asked.
Tyler had spent his senior year of high school attending culinary school. He was confident the chapter could do better, even though he’d never cooked such a large meal before. “I knew it was going to be a bit of a challenge but I like challenges,” he said. His confidence was bolstered by the enthusiasm of the other men in the chapter who would be helping him.
He started collecting menus from area restaurants and combing the internet for recipes. He wanted to keep the meal simple but elegant. Soon the menu for the evening was set:
Appetizer – Brochette
Salad – Spinach Almond
Dinner – Pinot Grigio Caper Chicken Scaloppini served over Yukon Gold mashed potatoes or
Herbed Ricotta and Spinach Ravioli with a Rosemary Béchamel Sauce
Dessert – Molten Chocolate Cake
Wanting to ensure that the evening went smoothly, Tyler and his kitchen crew diligently prepared a practice meal several days in advance. The food turned out fine and everyone had a better idea of what their duties were going to be.
On a Thursday evening just before the beginning of spring break all of the women who were invited to the dinner were met at their dorms or apartments and escorted to the Whitewater Community Church. They were seated at their tables and, with a pianist playing softly in the background, the men began serving the appetizers.
“None of us ever expected it to go this far,” said Nicole Goodrich, a senior. “We were all blown away by how much effort they had put into it. That was the first initial reaction when we walked in.”
Nicole said that the women appreciated the fact that the meal was more than just noodles and sauce thrown together. But even more they enjoyed seeing a side of the men that they hadn’t noticed before. “The girl sitting next to me said, ‘I can’t believe it. I’ve never met guys like this before. I didn’t know that we could be treated this way,” said Nicole.
Mark Majerus, who’s finishing up his fourth year as a campus staff member at the UW-Whitewater, was surprised by how the simple idea of a dinner turned into a major event for the chapter. “The guys put in a lot of effort,” he said. “The dinner was a natural team builder for them. And the women were really impressed.”
He believes the dinner was actually a counter-cultural event that spoke loudly about the students’ Christian faith and adherence to the biblical view that men and women are both created in the image of God. He hopes the dinner will be repeated.
“A lot of messages in our culture do not influence men to treat women well,” he said. “The messages are degrading and based on physical gratification. I don’t think some of the women have ever been treated like this, you know being picked up, having the door held for them. These guys went all out for them. I could tell that it was a real blessing and affirmation for them.”
At UW-Whitewater it has been a common practice to have separate male and female small group Bible studies for incoming students. It helps the students establish a strong spiritual foundation but the downside is that male and female students don’t have as many interaction opportunities. “It was real encouraging to see them interact this way,” Mark said.
Chelsea Felton, next year’s chapter president, was impressed that the men spent all day preparing the dinner. “The quality of the food was better than some of the nice restaurants that I have eaten at,” she said. “You could tell that they really wanted to show that they appreciated the women in the chapter. I think it brought a lot of people together who didn’t know each other as well.”
Male and female alike, chapter members have expressed an interest in seeing the dinner repeated next year. Chelsea agrees it’s a chapter tradition that should be continued, but with a twist. “The girls want them to do it again but we’ll probably do one for the guys next year,” she said.
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