What’s more New York than a Deli with a botanical name pushing questionable health foods? Well, courtesy of my local deli comes a lesson in writing an authentic and gutsy college essay.
In the GARDEN DELI window, a sign reads, “Fresh food all day.” The rub? The poster advertises the least fresh-looking food conceivable. Who you going to trust? It challenges famously. My words or your own (lying) eyes? Some delights cannot be feigned. Writer, take note.
Picture the Featured Burger: the top bun, bloated with bread-pride, towers at cruise-ship height over its other half. Between the bread protrudes ground meat that resembles a gravel-dump, Astroturf lettuce, and waxy cheese, a life-jacket, droopy orange. Variations on this theme surround the chief burger, in a mosh-pit of grotesque sandwiches.
The featured meal is appealing to somebody or (you assume) it wouldn’t be the marquee. To me, however, it functions as a “Do Not Enter” sign. As confirmation, I have only ever seen people come out of this deli with cigarettes in hand—nary a crumb of food, fresh or otherwise. But we see what we suspect. Maybe the food is so good customers devour it before they make it to the door. I find that unlikely.
Make us want more…
Still, as a reader, as a teacher, as your advocate, I ask: please don’t let your college essay be this manipulated, as adulterated as this so-called burger. Please don’t dress it up in Technicolor, and aspire to a manufactured standard.
Instead, let your essay be the image of a tantalizing meal. Make me, or any reader, want to push open the shop door, to beg for more of THAT. There will always be people who crave the artificial—but they are simply craving what they’ve been told to want, by the ubiquity of signs like the GARDEN DELI’s.
Can your gutsy college essay give us a taste of something else, unbelievably and naturally good? So that in our very guts, we get—and digest—your singular truth?