OBITUARY: DURFEE’S CHICKEN TENDERNESS
Durfee’s has been closed for three years now, and the pill is still hard to swallow. The little room on Elm Street, once bustling fifteen hours a day, is empty. Gone are the packages of Easy Mac, the tampons, the interminable yogurts. The fresh, hot samosas and the chicken tenders. The Oreos at 1:35am.
The Bow Wow is no replacement. Scanning canned coffee under the watchful eye of the supervisors is dystopian. (If they’re going to stand there, might they rather take control of the register than playact at prison warden?) At Durfee’s, there were just two cash registers, staffed by women who were either benevolent or neutral. No one scolded you for not taking a receipt—they did not have receipts.
If you knew Durfee Hall, you could go out the back door of Durfee’s and dodge spiders in the basement hallway until you came out onto Old Campus. This was particularly useful for the post-Woads crowd, who could seamlessly stop for snacks while filing from Elm back to Old Campus. On busy days, I used my nine-dollar lunch swipe to purchase a carton of fresh raspberries and two packets of Justin’s almond butter, which I would eat on my way up Science Hill. Others waited for the famous chicken tenders, which were perpetually sold-out.
Durfee’s closed quietly in spring 2020. I never got to say goodbye. In 2021, it was the Student Package Center, but it’s empty now. I’m not sure what it’ll be next. Nobody remembers Durfee’s anymore, just the gap-year washups like me. When we graduate in May, Durfee’s will drift away––but maybe not forever. Its Facebook page reads, “Durfee’s Sweet Shoppe is a Yale institution.” Here’s hoping that’s a promise.
In memoriam: The Balayage
Here lies balayage highlights. They were a lights show happening on the back of your head. Now that they’ve grown out, the $100 to get them redone needs to pay the bills. Christian girl autumn won’t be the same without you, but hopefully now it will be better.
Rest in Peace, Ivy Wok
After five unbroken weeks of Yale Dining, we were all craving a takeout dinner. Something casual, maybe a little bit trashy. Nine of us, all living in L-Dub, decided on Ivy Wok. The little Chinese-American restaurant used to be found at 316 Elm, right next to Tomatillo. It was the best (and closest) place for sticky-sweet, greasy, Chinese-American takeout comfort. We made the two-block journey, walking into the cozy restaurant with a too-large party.
You could say there was an open-kitchen concept. Or maybe the dining room was never really meant for guests to sit in. An older Chinese couple, speaking in a rapid mix of Cantonese and Mandarin, simultaneously manned the register, three woks, and a deep fryer packed full of battered chicken. We sat down at our table before paper menus filled with green and red text. In Chinese culinary culture, chefs should be capable of cooking any dish a customer could request. With one hundred fourteen menu items, Ivy Wok was certainly a paragon of that culinary value. The menu was culturally confused, featuring Cantonese-American classics, Japanese teriyaki, Thai tom yum soup with noodles, and Hong Kong-style congee.
Chinese food as most Americans know it comes from the fusion of Cantonese dishes with American ingredients and preferences. Growing up Chinese-American in the Midwest, this culinary fusion is all too familiar. My parents tried to cook as much traditional Chinese food as possible so that I’d learn about actual Chinese food too. The problem: General Tso’s chicken is fucking delicious. There’s a large audience for tasty Americanized Chinese dishes, but the need to appeal to as many diners as possible means borrowing from non-Chinese classics like teriyaki and tom yum. That’s how you get a hundred pan-Asian dishes on four pages of cardstock.
I was staring at this encyclopedia of a menu when I started getting questions from my friends about all the Chinese classics. I loved explaining what all the traditional foods were. In the end, though we ordered familiar fare: mixed dumplings, General Tso’s chicken, lo mein, and chow fun.
The dumplings, folded by the woman at the counter, arrived in a bamboo steamer that moments before sat atop a cauldron of water, gently cooking until the filling was just set. That first bite of chicken—its exterior crisp from its brief bath in the fryer but slightly softened by glistening orange sauce—transported me home to the hole-in-the-wall takeout place I used to visit with my friends after school. I think everyone at the table had that same experience.
There’s incredible variation in the quality of Chinese-American takeout, and even though we all grew up with different interpretations of the same dishes, Ivy Wok managed to strike at the essence of each classic. Home had never felt so universal for a group of people who didn’t know each other until a month ago.
Ivy Wok became my little respite from Yale, my favorite New Haven takeout spot. Handmade wontons, rice congee topped with preserved eggs, and perfectly imperfect chicken were the reliable standards that supported me through remote work and too many five-credit semesters. A mere three-minute walk from my dorm, Ivy Wok was an ever-present temptation and culinary link to home.
When I walked by last year and saw the sign that read “we have made the decision to retire and close Ivy Wok”, I couldn’t help but feel like a crucial part of my Yale experience was dead. For twenty-three years, an immigrant family had provided amazing takeout to New Haven and Yale. They must have served thousands of students, watching them as they grew and ultimately graduated. I wonder how many movie nights, study breaks, and first dates Ivy Wok has been a part of. It was time for a well-deserved rest.
R.I.P. “Baby” Era
It was the “swoosh” of the flip and the elegance with which you ran your hands through your hair that made me fall in love with you. It was the way you dated Selena Gomez that made me wish I was near you. It was the low-hanging pants and autotuned voice that kept me constantly turned on. To the Justin Bieber “Baby” era, I wish you well and pray that you will find peace. I may never listen to your whining voice again or hear another arrest story, but I will remember all those moments of the past. It’s okay, you can go now. We will find a way to live without you.
Rest in Peace to Birds Aren’t Real. It was like, maybe funny in 2017 at the bridge between the USA PATRIOT Act era and the Trump era, but alas—during the millennial-to-Gen-Z Twitter transfer of power, it just became sad. Birds Aren’t Real is survived by various microchips in your bloodstream courtesy of Bill Gates and Pfizer.