When I lived in the dorms back in college, my friend Jen down the hall smuggled in what I’m sure was an illegal sandwich-maker. A beautiful little machine that turned white bread and American cheese singles into a glorious gooey cheese pocket. It was the perfect antidote to our late-night hunger when the dining hall and the student union were closed. Boy, did we love that sandwich-maker.
Jen and I had a lot of wonderful times together (I remember laughing until tears streamed down our faces), and much of our relationship, now that I think about it, revolved around food. We earned extra money in college by working in a chain restaurant, a steak house, where we’d pilfer thick-cut fries from under the heat lamp in the kitchen, and where we were required to country line dance during certain songs. Jen used to hide in the kitchen cooler every time a song would blare through the speakers. I took the floor and loved it. (Recently, I passed a branch of that restaurant on my way to interview Joanna Haas ’89 for our story, “Of Bodies and Minds,” which starts on p. 30 and, not surprisingly, I thought of Jen.) She and I got into a pretty heated political debate once in a restaurant at the local mall when we were supposed to be Christmas shopping. And I remember one particular afternoon when we were surely broke but took ourselves out to a nice restaurant on Lake Erie anyway—because we felt like it.
Another roommate, Teresa, taught me how to make a cheese appetizer that’s really a meal. We’d do sit-ups in our phys ed class and then come home to pour cheese and garlic and pizza sauce into a casserole dish. We would heat it until it burst upward and spluttered over the sides of the dish, then we’d eat it with hefty tortilla chips. (We really did feel like we had earned it.) These days I take that appetizer to family picnics.
When Teresa used to head home for the weekend, she’d always come back with her mom’s blueberry pie. We’d eat it for dinner (warm, with vanilla ice cream on top) and then breakfast the following morning (warm, no ice cream). To this day, I have never tasted another blueberry pie that good.
And one of my favorite memories revolves around the years that some of us would get together to cook a giant Easter dinner for our friends who stayed in town over spring break. It was during one of those cooking sessions that I learned one friend’s secret for an astonishing green bean and bacon dish. (Sauté the beans in bacon fat—and don’t knock it ’til you try it. Paula Deen’s got nothing on this guy.)
While the opening pages of this issue focus on food students might make in the residence halls, I’m guessing it will conjure a lot of memories for our readers about meals shared with friends anywhere and anytime throughout their college days. For example, every time I pass a Perkins Family Restaurant (they’re big in the Pennsylvania area, where I went to college), I think about the time when my husband and I started dating. We were seniors and could spend a whole morning (okay, early afternoon) filling our coffee cups and lingering over scrambled eggs and sausage and hash browns and giant, warm blueberry muffins.
Maybe, as our story states, tastes grow more sophisticated with age. Maybe, 15 years out of college, I should be wishing for a nice piece of salmon and some steamed broccoli every night. But I’ll tell you what, when I’m feeling like comfort, there’s nothing like a slice of warm blueberry pie with vanilla ice cream on top.
Or a good ol’-fashioned grilled cheese sandwich.