My students write short papers for each class, papers written in response to what we are reading, or what we've been talking about, or stuff happening in the news, and we begin each class with a few of these papers read aloud. Since my fall semester students live together on one floor of a residence hall, they often read each other's papers the night before class, and they will come to class saying things like, "Make So-and-So read aloud today. Her paper rocks."
Apparently, the other day one of my students, Hair-in-Eyes, decided on a dare to eat 50 chicken nuggets in a single sitting. He is an average-sized person, not unusually big, so I can imagine how sick he must have at the end of the eating binge. His friends chose to write their papers about this feat, using it as a model of consumerism, an example of what happens in a culture in which people are constantly goaded into buying more, buying bigger, consuming as much as they can. Since we have been reading about environmental issues all semester, the papers did fit with the topics we've been discussing. Although the discussion began with some joking around, it quickly grew serious, with one woman bringing in the topic of eating disorders and how food gets tied to emotional issues in our culture.
I asked Hair-in-Eyes to sum up how he felt after eating the chicken nuggets. His roommates were making all kinds of comments to indicate the sort of gastrointestinal distress he'd been in. He looked up at the class, shook the hair out of his eyes, and said simply, "It was awful."