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   Date: 11/24/08

A Bite of This, a Taste of That

The Gate student writer makes the campus rounds on Julia Child Day, Nov. 20, 2008

View a photo gallery of Julia Child Day 2008

Rachel Miller ’09

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 interest in quality, local food while 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, toothsome cheese.

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.”

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