This was definitely an experience of a lifetime! Christopher’s boss invited us to a High Table dinner at Trinity College. I’d heard about these events from a few people I’d spoken with: “Oh, it’s a must if you can go to one.” So, I was obviously excited when I heard we had the opportunity to attend.

What it is: a very old tradition that takes place at some prestigious universities (including Oxford and Cambridge) where students and fellows of the college eat a fancy dinner together. The fellows and their guests (that’s us!) sit at a high table–literally, it’s raised on a platform–while the students sit at large family-style tables perpendicular to the High Table. (Think Hogwarts’ Great Hall.) Everyone dresses formally and the fellows wear their academic robes.

Standing in front of a portrait of the founder of Trinity College.

The dinner begins after those at the High Table walk in. A loud bang happens and all the students stand up immediately. A prayer is said in Latin and then the food and drinks start coming out.

From what I understood, this is the dining hall that the students eat in regularly. They have High Table dinners on Wednesdays and Fridays, but they can also eat there for regular meals as well. The chef is amazing–the college regularly sends him on food tours around the world to inspire new dishes. Each course was absolutely beautiful and delicious.

During dinner, I had a lovely chat with Christopher’s boss and ended up talking with two economists about their work–they also let me talk about mine.

Christopher and his boss Peter later that night

 After the dessert course, there was another loud bang. Everyone stood up and we were whisked away from the table. We were uncertain where we were going and why, particularly when Christopher’s boss told us to make sure we brought our napkins. We ended up in a smaller room for a second round of dessert. After circling the table looking for our place cards, we realized Christopher and I had been split up intentionally. This tradition encourages great conversation between people from a variety of different fields. Christopher ended up next to my economist friends, and I sat next to an English professor who–get this–I had a mutual friend with back in New York! Out of all the people in the world, isn’t it crazy that the one person she knew from NYC happened to be an author I worked with at my last job? What are the chances?

As we were talking, we were instructed to continuously pass the wine bottles, fruit plates and chocolates to the left. And then this beautiful silver box ended up in front of me, so I asked the others around me what it was. “It’s snuff,” the medieval language professor who hosted the evening told me. I ended up passing it to the left not being brave enough to try it myself but later found out Christopher was after noticing the smudge of snuff on his nose 😉

Have you ever tried snuff?

We finished the evening with coffee and tea in the Senior Fellow’s Common Room. The combination of delicious food, amazing tradition and great company will certainly make this one of our most memorable experiences in Oxford this year.

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