College has become a place where students develop a broader sense of food sensibilities.
My brother Marty, a graduating senior in high school, is a foodie. I like to think that I've had a lot to do with this. A couple summers ago, it was Marty who helped me harvest zucchini blossoms from my garden and stuff them with herbed ricotta. This spring, after winning a cash prize for an essay contest, the first thing Marty did was treat us to dinner at Chez François, a real-deal French restaurant in Vermilion, OH (Zagat Guide's 2010 highest-rated restaurant in the state).
In the fall of 2008, we went to a multi-course clambake event at the same place. We began the meal with an amuse-bouche of pumpkin foam in tiny shot-glasses. After a velvety clam chowder and some out-of-this-world mussels and clams, we were nearly stuffed by the time the crab-stuffed lobsters arrived, but bravely soldiered on for three or four more courses.
As a teenage boy, Marty eats a lot. I mean a lot. If there's something on the menu called “Fisherman's Feast,” “Surf and Turf” or “Neptune's Platter,” you can count on him to order that.
My mom has nurtured us in our gourmet sensibilities. I grew up in the 80s with fondue parties and The Silver Palate Cookbook. Her repertoire includes a lot of classical French dishes (think boeuf bourguignon). And all of my first cookbooks and cooking equipment were borrowed from her (i.e., “borrowed” the way all daughters borrow from mothers: “taken”). My adventurous cooking spirit comes from my mom.
Whenever Marty balks at something she serves for dinner (he is a teenager, after all), I remind him to “just wait until you're in college next year! There will be stations with street foods from all over the world. You can get burritos and pizza any time you want! They'll stir fry right in front of you!”
Marty got accepted into The Ohio State University recently and we're all so excited. (I'm thrilled that he'll only be about a two-and-a-half hour car trip away.) My husband (an alumni himself) is thrilled at the possibility of tickets for Buckeyes sporting events.
We've eagerly looked at all the mailings he's gotten. One glossy brochure shows a brand new, huge student center with such things as a diner with a 60s style and a fancy new restaurant.
When I was in college in the mid-late 90s (and early 2000s…okay, I stayed for 6 years!), it was just before many college foodservices started to take notice of budding foodie students across the country. We had a dining hall that was known as “Grease-Way.” My friends and I ate there when we had to, but we preferred the McDonald's in the student union. So when I moved off-campus, it was an immediate incentive to get serious about doing my own cooking. (My friends once broke into my apartment one night when I was out of town to get to my famous mac ‘n cheese in the fridge and reheat it after a night at the bars).
I've given Marty a lot of advice for his freshman year. I hope he can learn from all my mistakes. I tell him to remember to go to his classes (sounds basic, but I wish I would have); that it's not important to look cool; that he shouldn't try to go to every party during the first week; not to take too much stuff to move into his room; not to set the residence hall on fire with incense…and on and on…
The kid has a good head on his shoulders. In that way, he's nothing like I was when I first started college. I'm not worried about him at all. And I'm a little jealous of all the good things he'll get to eat.