Bite of This, a Taste of That
The Gate student writer makes the campus rounds on Julia
Child Day, Nov. 20, 2008
By Rachel Miller ’09
It’s the fifth annual Julia Child Day celebration
and the Smith College Campus Center is packed tighter than
three-cheese ravioli. People are everywhere, and everyone
is eating—me included.
Fountains of bright vegetables
line the main passageway and great tureens of artichoke
dip and Welsh rarebit are surrounded by generous baskets
of asiago, whole wheat, and pita breads. For dinner I’m looking forward to some
recipes by authors and Julia Child Day presenters Bryant
Terry and Anna Lappé from their book Grub:
things like spicy barbecue tofu triangles, roasted yam puree
with coconut milk, and lemon-lime collards with raisins.
Doesn’t sound very French,
does it? It’s not.
Although past celebrations of Julia Child ’34 focused
solely on recipes taken from her slew of successful cookbooks,
this year dining services is recognizing Smith’s commitment
to sustainability and the college community’s burgeoning
paying homage to Julia. That means inviting local farmers
to set up in the Campus Center to offer their products, and
buying meat from farms nearby. Of course, not to forget the
honoree of the day, dishes like Julia’s coquilles
saint-jacques á la Parisienne (scallops and mushrooms
in white wine sauce) are also available.
Julia would surely approve. She loved a healthy local market
and, like any successful chef, cooked only with fresh ingredients
when they were in season and bursting with flavor.
As a result everything
tastes like it was just pulled from the backyard garden.
There’s no brie or bouillabaisse
in sight but there is fresh, creamy pumpkin ice cream and
a well-balanced, spicy gingered eggnog. Smith staples Side
Hill Farm of Ashfield, Mass., is giving away sweet maple
yogurt, and Black River, of North Springfield, Vt., is sharing
its Grafton five-year cheddar, a dependably tangy, crumbly,
That is nothing compared
to the 12-month Nubian goat cheddar from Goat Rising—a category unto itself. This farmstead
in Charlemont, Mass., has won several awards for its cheese,
including a gold medal at an international contest for the
Jersey Maid reblochon, a thoughtfully creamy, complex cheese—worlds
better than brie in smoothness and flavor.
Why can’t we eat
like this every day, I wonder?
For dinner, I decide to
attempt a combination: hit one house serving Julia’s
recipes, and another offering dishes out of Grub.
I go to Hubbard in search of goat cheese and spinach quiche
(and chocolate croissants!), but so does everyone else.
The line is too long. I head to Cutter, but there’s
no pumpkin bisque left and no whipped potatoes. Only 6
p.m. and some of the dishes are already cleaned out!
|The writer samples
a glass of cider from Outlook Farm, one of 18 vendors
at Julia Child Day.
Nearly despairing, I walk
to Lamont to try the autumn vegetable pie. I’m the
first to break into a new pan, and the crust is tender
and forgiving. The Brussels sprouts, however, are burnt.
I move on to Gillett, where I find the infamous Grub concoctions.
It was hard to tell whether the house was using new recipes
or not, though, because Gillett is famous for its innovative
vegetarian entrées. The tofu was classic Gillett and
the collard greens were lively, but the yams stole the show—a
humble vegetable turned gloriously smooth and glamorous,
with a hint of coconut.
I didn’t get to taste the chocolate croissants. I’m
sure they were flaky and delicious, but in the end my favorite
dishes were the last ones of the night: the hearty locally
grown roasted yam, and the humble, delicious ginger cornbread
cake, both at Gillette.
Or, as Julia would say, “Bon appetít.”