New Jersey Food Journal

Monday, May 5, 2014

For High School Senior, a Greasy Welcome

"Fat Darrell" creator Darrell W. Butler outside RU Hungry, one of the Grease Trucks at Rutgers University.

By Erica M. Szkola

In front of Scott Hall on the College Avenue was the last place I thought I’d be. My friend and I were hungry that summer night. If it were any other day, it would have been a quick run to the nearest fast food place and back to my movie marathon. On this day, we decided to be more adventurous.

As we crossed the street into the parking lot, the smell of grease overpowered us. Music blared from the four trucks in the lot. A crowd of Rutgers students yelled orders in what seemed to be a very unorganized fashion. Yet the man popping his head out of the truck didn’t miss a single order. He seemed to rather enjoy it, as did the students. But what exactly was inside the brown paper bags?

“We’ll have two fat beaches,” said my friend Jessie. “Erica, you can’t come to Rutgers next year without having a Fat Sandwich, it’s a tradition.”

“I ate until I couldn’t eat anymore. I looked down at my lap. Still half a sandwich left. I just couldn’t do it, and I felt defeated.”
The Fat Sandwiches had the most interesting combinations of ingredients. At first glance, they didn’t seem appetizing at all. How was it possible to fit so many side orders into one paper bag? It still boggles my mind.

But there it was, heavy in my hands: cheese steak, chicken fingers, mozzarella sticks and French fries, completed with a mixture of ketchup and mayonnaise inbetween the warm, slightly toasted roll. I wasn’t sure how to go about taking a huge bite of the sandwich, so I began eating the fries individually. I understood by the blank look on my friend’s face that that was definitely not the way you were supposed to eat it.

When I had the first bite, I understood why a Fat Sandwich was such a big deal at Rutgers. A sensation of satisfaction. An entire meal in one sandwich, yet none of the flavors overpowered. An impressively fulfilling meal, as unhealthy as it was.

I ate until I couldn’t eat anymore. I looked down at my lap. Still half a sandwich left. I just couldn’t do it, and I felt defeated. It was the first time visiting the school I would be attending in a couple of months and I couldn’t even finish a whole sandwich. “It’s OK,” Jessie reassured me. “I don’t know many people who could finish an entire Fat Sandwich on their first try.”

Something about the smell of grease, and the way students gathered in all hours of the misty night to share the experience of the Fat Sandwich, made it feel like college. It was a first welcome to Rutgers. At that moment, I wasn’t a soon-to-be high-school graduate, I was a Scarlet Knight.

Erica M. Szkola is a junior at Rutgers, majoring in journalism and media Studies with a minor in cinema studies. After graduation, she plans to pursue a career in film/TV production and writing.