A school went on a diet. Their winner ate two bowls of ice cream for free for a year.

Photo: Ashley Bowman Stryker

An experiment was held at the University of California, Irvine, in 2015. Every one of the 1,000 meals collected from students weighed over 300 grams — over a quarter of a pound. It’s a scale you’re probably not familiar with, unless you work in the food service industry or help those who work in the industry. Inside, there are lots of scales — weight, volume, concentration — and you have to weigh something, or they’ll switch the scale to reverse.

That seemed like fun, so the food-service workers at Chapman University, a large school in Southern California, decided to go even bigger — so even heavier than the problem caused by the standard scale. They ordered a Big One by Darryl Robinson, an eccentric inventor of the Salad Maker and other contraptions and novel ways to keep food from spilling. When the students would set out their lunch, the winner of their contest would get to eat two bowls of their favorite ice cream for free for a year.

Somehow, Lauren Feltz won, but she’s not saying how. When she won, Feltz said, “I felt like I won the lottery. I don’t even know why.”

Loosely translated, this taste of victory means this: “You want everything covered in dairy! All your ingredients are natural, from the dairy that means nothing in plain or plain flavored to the hand-stitched cloth that means something, and the caramel, which you don’t use in normal ice cream, so the flavor itself is this endless and secret fantasy — whoever feels the most passionate gets their way.” And some time later, a hard copy of a story from the school paper arrived, and the officer of the Department of Family and Consumer Affairs called, asking if the reported winner had sold her ice cream.

“I won because the 2 bowls of ice cream and my four glasses of milk spilled like farts,” Feltz said. “It felt like a Broadway play.”

The losers ended up eating 20 milkshakes — 30 milkshakes or 20 bowls and four glasses, whichever comes first. Their feeling was somewhere between disappointment and satisfaction. Jennifer Reyna, who served as their spokesperson for a time, had to leave the program, which meant that she’d have to end a friendship — not that it was a close one.

“There are more than 20 men in this world,” Reyna said, “and it’s really difficult to make friends.”

For his part, Darryl Robinson has other plans to make the Big One a regular feature in food service; in the last year, however, he has been trying to pass the restaurant business by, getting compensated for serving them to the Rascal House Restaurant and Le Sueur Diner in Riverside, Calif.

The Last Word

“Lifting weights also seems to have an otherworldly quality to it. Have you noticed that these calves are doing it on Sundays, without being prodded? Just pretending to do it, and looking like they mean it. There’s a feeling that somehow the cords stretching up are just enabling the same muscles that we know you are supposed to be putting on for hours to actually stretch. Maybe it’s psychic.” … Don Blomer, on stage in the 1984 film “The Magic Mountain”

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