The Experience, Dining
April 5, 2015
I recently celebrated my 19th birthday. Well, actually, it was my 4¾ birthday. I was born on Leap Day.
This was my first birthday away from my parents. I remember, before college started, wondering what I’d do on my birthday away from home. I was slightly worried that I wouldn’t have anyone to spend it with. However, it turned out to be one of the best birthdays I’ve ever had. I’ve had good birthdays and bad birthdays, teary-eyed birthdays and sick birthdays. (I wasn’t sick for this birthday and no one cried, so it was already shaping up to be one of the better ones.)
I planned everything out in the week preceding the big day with my friend Emma and with the assistance of some Conn students and alums. People threw out all sorts of ideas, from toy stores in Mystic to nearby beaches in Rhode Island. Emma and I wound up using a Zipcar to go to Mistick Village, which is a quaint collection of shops and eateries about 10 minutes from campus. Then we explored historic downtown Mystic and visited a few stores, eventually stopping to eat at a little Thai restaurant.
Before returning, we went to Big Y, our local grocery store, so that I could pick up some snacks to offer to friends back on campus, in the hopes that food offerings would force quality birthday bonding. We drove back with a car full of groceries, dorm decorations and fudge. I invited some people over to my room and we spent the night eating, listening to music, and talking about women’s rights. Some of my friends even surprised me by coming with incredibly thoughtful gifts.
I wouldn’t necessarily say that this tops the birthday when my parents surprised me with a Rugrats tent, but it’s definitely up there. I’d have to say that this was the best birthday I’ve had since, at least, middle school.
February 23, 2015
If you're like me, you have a solid background in cooking, baking and such. If you're like my friend Emma, you might claim you do.
Freeman dining hall, one of my favorite places to eat, has weekly cook-your-own-food events. Tuesday nights are stir fry nights and Thursday nights are burrito nights. As of last week, Mondays are now grilled cheese nights! Obviously I attended the opening night because ... grilled cheese (YUM).
Emma, who's a vegan, made a grilled cheese using rye bread, a tomato slice, and vegan cheese — which, we learned, does not melt; it just burns. I, on the other hand, made a professional grilled cheese with bread and a nice helping of cheese and apple slices. Not to judge, but mine may have come out a teensy bit better.
Regardless of results, we both enjoyed experimenting with our sandwiches, and look forward to many more Mondays with this new tradition. It was really nice to be able to cook, even if all I made was a grilled cheese. There are kitchens scattered around campus, in a few residence halls and in apartment residences usually occupied by older students, but my opportunities to cook are infrequent (and I don't usually have many of the ingredients needed). Being able to prepare some food for myself, even if it's just a little bit, in Freeman is a nice change of pace.
Plus, if you bring a friend, there's a chance you can make fun of them for burning their sandwich, which is always a good time!
February 18, 2015
As a transfer student, I am still discovering the nooks and crannies of Connecticut College.
A friend from my European Politics class introduced me to the small and homey Coffee Grounds café. When I first entered the space, the smell of fresh brewing coffee greeted me at the door. I looked around, soaking in the cozy ambiance. The window frames are painted red, making the room pop with color. The blackboard menus with chalk handwriting add a personal touch. Instead of unflattering fluorescent lights overhead, the fixtures are a warm yellow. Eclectic, calm music plays in the background.
While digesting the scene, my friend signaled me to sit on a couch before beginning our homework. After a while, she broke the silence, saying, "I don’t understand why this politics homework talks so much about economics!" I looked up and realized that another person beside me had begun to smile. I turned to face her and an intellectual conversation blossomed. After our basic introductions of names and majors, I found out the reason she had smiled was because she studies exactly the topics that my friend had lamented. She explained the interconnection of how political parties affect what economic polices are passed. Left-wing parties tend to pass policies that increase government spending and taxes, whereas more right-wing parties tend to pass polices that decrease government spending and taxes. Her economic explanations clarified the connection between politics and economics.
It was serendipitous to find myself in an unexpected conversation with a stranger, discussing the world's complexities and learning all the while.
February 13, 2015
On Saturday afternoon, a few of my friends and I went to Fiddleheads Natural Food Co-op in New London to buy ingredients for a dinner we were going to cook later that night with a friend who lives in Earth House. Earth House, a seven-person house for students interested in issues of sustainability and the environment, is one of the residences on campus with a full kitchen. Sophomores, juniors and seniors have the flexibility to live in more places around campus, including a variety of College-owned houses and apartments, as opposed to just the dorms.
The walls of Earth House's first floor are covered completely in paint, as it is an Earth House tradition to leave quotes, pictures and other designs on the walls. Around 6 p.m., we all gathered in the kitchen and began to prepare our feast of falafel, roasted zucchini and a cherry tomato salad. After we finished cooking, we sat around the wooden dining room table and ate; most of us remarked that we wanted to live in Earth House next year!
December 31, 2014
Connecticut College keeps you incredibly involved. With papers to write, student performances to see and tours to give, a little break can prepare me better than anything for the coming week.
At the beginning of every week, I've come to relax by exploring the area. At promptly 9:30 every Sunday morning, I rent one of the Zip Cars located on campus and drive with my girlfriend down to Muddy Waters for breakfast and a coffee. Muddy Waters is by far my favorite restaurant in New London. The counter is piled high with sweet breakfast treats, and music by The Temptations plays over the radio as we sit and eat our breakfast. When it's warm enough outside, we sit on the deck and watch the boats going in and out of the Thames River. I’m fascinated by submarines and Muddy Waters is directly across from Electric Boat, so it is always fun to watch them building submarine components across the river. When it's cold outside, we sit inside the restaurant, which resembles an antique shop. Every chair and table in Muddy Waters is a different shape or size and, with walls covered in pictures and newspaper clippings, it feels cozy and safe.
After breakfast is over, it is back in the car for my favorite part of the day. We start off by driving out to Guthrie Beach and the windy streets in the southern part of New London. Looking out at Long Island Sound through quaint neighborhoods is always a good reset before going back to the College. Our final destination is sometimes Harkness State Park, a massive stretch of land that has tall trees, broad marshes and crashing waves on a beach of golden sand. It's cold, but the views are very relaxing. With only 15 minutes to spare, I rush back to the College and finish up my homework from Friday night.
Guthrie Beach, New London
December 15, 2014
A week ago, I went to work at 9 a.m. in Ruane's Den, a coffee shop located in Harkness, one of the College's residence halls. I work the opening shift on Mondays and after a long, tiring Sunday filled with homework, I wanted nothing more than to escape into the warmth of the coffee shop and make myself a chai latte.
Turns out, I didn't have to. As I walked up the steps to the patio of Harkness, I encountered a strange sight: two open boxes of Dunkin' Donuts and a large box of coffee on a table. A student was sitting in one of the chairs and a slightly older man was sitting in another. They were chatting and laughing, but the scene looked strange still; why would two people need 20 donuts? I then saw random people coming by, conversing with the older man, grabbing a coffee or a donut, and leaving for class. I had to investigate.
The housefellow of Harkness — each residence hall has a "housefellow," a student in charge of the house — had decided to throw a surprise breakfast for the dorm custodian. With the help of the Office of Residential Education and Living (REAL), she'd gone down to Dunkin' early in the morning and brought donuts for all her residents, and she'd asked the custodian to take a few minutes off and just relax with the students. As sappy as it is, I couldn't help but feel a warmth inside me; I didn't even care that people would skip my coffee shop to get free coffee from the table — the custodian looked so happy!
Last year, another student at Conn filmed a short video asking students if they knew their dorm custodians, and quite a few did. I remember leaving notes outside the door of my first-year custodian, and I remember friends going out of their way to clear rubbish just so there would be less work for our friendly, resident custodian. Sometimes, simple acts of caring can really make a difference.
I sipped my coffee and was 10 minutes late to work. My manager didn't care.
December 10, 2014
When you tell people you’re staying on campus over Thanksgiving break, you get a sad ‘that’s too bad’ sort of look. But for me, there wasn’t a whole lot sad about it (aside from not getting to see my family, that is) because I got to stay with my three best friends. Taking over the halls of Knowlton, we dragged pillows, blankets and junk food down to the common room for movie marathons, dyed my hair blue in a tiny sink, slid along the wooden floors in our socks, drew on the chalkboards and sang at the top of our lungs. It felt like we had the entire campus to ourselves. The quite was a refreshing change of pace. And when Thursday evening rolled around, we made our own Thanksgiving meal using the kitchen in the basement of Lazarus. First venturing to Fiddleheads for provisions (as featured above), we spent the afternoon prepping and cooking. And once we sat down over our home cooked meal, we toasted to how grateful we are to have each other.
December 3, 2014
November 23, 2014
On Nov. 11, 2014, outside Harris Refectory, the Connecticut College Chamber Choir and Orchestra gave the community an unexpected treat. Passersby were invited to try their hand at conducting the Hallelujah Chorus, a preview for the choir and orchestra's concert that weekend.
Video edited by Dana Sorkin '16
October 24, 2014
May 14, 2014
The heavier my workload, the earlier I wake up. In the midst of finals, I wake up around 6:30 a.m. Others are up early in the dorm, too, some exersizing to work out videos, others already studying or meeting with classmates. I find myself often studying in the same, cozy corner of Knowlton, at the end of the corridor near Knowlton Dining Hall. Because the dining hall only opens for lunch, I can count on the hallway to be quiet.
Last time I studied there, a wonderful member of the kitchen staff noticed me, still in my PJs, sprawled out on the ground with my books. When she approached me, I expected her to ask me to move since I might be obstructing the hallway. To my pleasant surprise, however, she offered me tea and coffee. She even opened the dining hall to me and invited me to eat some breakfast. When I entered the dining hall, a wave of calmness rushed over me. I enjoyed the peace and quiet of the normally bustling room. I sat at the Russian language table even though I speak French just because I could. After eating, I slowly sipped my coffee while reading “The Turn of the Screw” until the time came to head, with renewed calmness, to class. It was a gentle, caring staff member from the dining hall who made all the difference that day.
May 5, 2014
Napkin Notes at Conn are a unique way for students to let know how they're feeling about the food. Almost every note gets a response from the staff. While Dining Services can't always accommodate everything, like my friend's request to have our famous chocolate chip cookies at every meal, but the staff is usually able to find a way to make sure the majority of the requests are met.
April 10, 2014
I try very hard not to take night classes.
Not that there aren’t good classes being held at night, but as a track athlete whose practice regularly goes to 6 or 6:30, the added stress of having to get to class afterward is one I try to avoid for my mental health. However, when I joined the Goodwin-Niering Center for the Environment, I was signed up for a seminar that takes place 7-8:30 pm.
Now, you might wonder how I can leave practice, change, eat, get my books and get to class in under a half hour, but luckily, the College has a nifty system for athletes whose practices end after dining hall hours, or for those athletes who also have night classes. We call it the “Cro Pass.”
With the Cro Pass, you get certain items from Oasis, our snack shop, for free. (Cro Passes are only redeemable on the day you were given it, and has to be signed your coach.) Because of my night course schedule isn’t typical for athletes, it’s pretty infrequent that others from my team are eating in Oasis. I try not to eat alone, and I certainly don’t want to be seen eating a whole pizza, solo, on a Tuesday night. So, I decided to use my Cro Pass as a way to befriend my classmates in the Goodwin-Niering Center.
One of my classmates, Maia, is also involved in tons of activities, including dance, so she occasionally hasn’t had the chance to grab dinner before class. She has become my regular Cro date for post-Goodwin Niering seminars dinners, and through this, also a very close friend.
Just this week, she texted me saying “Are you living that Cro Pass life today??” After all, aren't all good friendships are based on food?
March 25, 2014
In college, cooking is all too often equated with ramen noodles. Fast food and microwaved leftovers aren't exactly gourmet food groups, either. I want to learn how to cook, but I don’t want to do it alone. My solution? Apply to live in an apartment-style residence for junior year, with a kitchen for gourmet experimentation.
Last week, I did just that. My friend Alex and I applied to live together in one of the apartment-style options available to upperclassmen. These are campus housing options, but have kitchens and a little more independence. I can’t explain how excited I am to learn to cook my own meals in preparation for life after College. Alex and I are both peer educators on campus and living together will give us a way to plan and help run the organization.
Most importantly, I will certainly be buying an apron.
March 13, 2014
The perfect end to midterms week came last Thursday at Taste of Harris. Independent food vendors visit campus once every Spring and serve everything from sausage ravioli to margarita pizza. At the end of the meal, students vote on their favorite items and the dining hall staff try to include the winners on the regular menu. Black bean burgers are now available in Harris after they made an appearance at last year's Taste of Harris.
February 25, 2014
Have a favorite place in your town where you just love to eat? Conn is like a small town and we’ve all got our favorite places to socialize and get meals. For me, it’s Smith Dining Hall.
I can go on and on about why Smith is my favorite place for breakfast and lunch. I mean, if you can find one bad thing about Smith, let me know.
Let me take you on a Smith adventure: It all starts with cheese and veggies! Spinach, lettuce, beans, corn salads, tomato salad... basically everything and anything you need for a salad. (Oh, did I forget to mention guacamole? Yeah, that just happened.)
Next are the famous flavored sauces and mayos that you and your friends will come here for. Chipotle-mayo is definitely my favorite, but others are partial to the sundried tomato and pesto spreads.
Toward the end of the line are the meats, should you choose to accept them. (Who doesn’t like a zesty chicken?) I love a zesty chicken, and Smith knows what I love, so they have a zesty chicken.
What makes Smith really special, however, is that I haven’t run into a single rude person in all my afternoons here. Admittedly, Smith is one of the smallest and most popular dining halls, yet there’s never a “Move!” Instead, I always hear “Excuse me”. Never a “I was using that,” always an “Oh sorry, after you.” Smith allows us to create all types of wondrous sandwiches and salads. In the dining hall’s simplicity, it creates a space of unity. That’s what I love about Smith.
February 11, 2014
One of my best friends, Caroline, visited me at Conn over the weekend. Although she and I love quiet chats over mocha at our favorite coffee shops, we also love adventures like kayaking to islands off Maine’s coast and square dancing in Charlestown.
Therefore, it came as no surprise that we spent our time together at Conn doing something adventurous. What did we do? We cooked.
After Caroline arrived in New London on the Amtrak, we headed to Fiddleheads, a natural foods co-op downtown. We looked up vegetarian recipes on our phones and came across an easy one for black bean and sweet potato enchiladas.
Fiddleheads had the ingredients available, even in small portions. That meant that instead of buying an entire shaker of chili powder and bottle of canola oil (which my meal-plan-self would not finish), we could take just as much as the recipe called for.
Around dinnertime, Caroline and I set out to cook our enchiladas in Lazarus Dorm’s kitchen. Although most students at Conn live in the dorms and eat all their meals in dining halls, some apartments are available. Other buildings, like Lazarus, have dorm rooms but shared kitchens that all students, like myself, can use.
We walked straight into a cooking fiesta with the others who were there. As we grated potatoes and chopped onions, a German student made soup; a student from Texas cooked eggs, bacon and biscuits; and two friends fried rice.
Though our dinner took the longest to prepare, it was worth it. The enchiladas and the weekend turned out great.
February 10, 2014
Harris Refectory is a place where students go not only to eat, but also to sit down and socialize, as well. We jokingly call Harris a "social trap," because most students, at some point, find themselves spending an average of one to two hours, sometimes more sitting and socializing, well after having finished their meal.
February 7, 2014
When I arrived at Conn, I ate most of my meals in the dining halls nearest to my dorm. As I expanded my horizons, at the urging of a friend, I ventured south to Freeman Dining Hall (in Freeman House.) It was there where I first discovered the joy of at the New York Times crossword puzzles.
Of course, I knew what the crossword was, but had never actually tried it before. What started as a simple lunch became a meeting of the minds. An architectural studies major/art minor with French language skills teamed up with this environmental studies major/English minor who knows Spanish. Together we managed our way through the Tuesday puzzle and -- on a good week -- even the Thursday crossword.
Since my friend graduated, I have continued doing the crossword almost every weekday. My group of crosswordians has grown to include two psychology majors and an East Asian studies major, all of us with varying language abilities. One time, our crossword attempts extended to an evening meal with my track team, and all of us worked together to complete a Wednesday crossword (which, for those who haven’t yet become familiar with the New York Times crossword, is kind of difficult.)
Doing the crossword is one of the new routines that I’ve developed at Conn. It is easy to pick up, because Conn students have access to free copies of the New York Times every school day. The daily challenge has also helped me keep up with current events beyond our small campus, and I’ve met some great new competitors in the process, too.
January 21, 2014
Often on Fridays, my friend Joanna will invite me to a Shabbat dinner, hosted by Hillel, the Jewish organization on campus.
Although I am not Jewish, these dinners have become one of my favorite weekly traditions. A group of about 15 people (often including “Coasties,” our affectionate name for students from the Coast Guard Academy,) gather around tables pushed together in the Jane Addams dining hall.
One of Hillel’s leaders guides us in song and, once we’ve finished singing, we pass around challah and share snippets of our week with one another.
I am grateful to Hillel for providing me a calming space to reflect on my week, catch up with friends, and meet new ones. With the new Hillel House opening this month, I’m excited to be part of more Jewish cultural events.
December 2, 2013
Ever notice that you're never really "normal" when hanging out with friends? Your inside jokes and secret ways of communicating set you apart. People might give you confused looks if you all randomly burst into laughter when nothing really happened. I'd like to call this “comfortable strangeness.” Once you reach this with a group of people, you'll find that it is difficult to be anything but a little weird.
I always eat late breakfast/early lunch in Smith with two classmates — very close friends — before my 11:50 class. We share a comfortable strangeness over sandwiches and bagels. We recently sat with a friend we don't often see and shared the same realization; we were struggling to be normal. It actually made lunch even more hilariously awkward. Our friend departed before we did and we laughed about how we never realized how strange we were. It wasn't until we were around other people that we felt the need to tone down our overly-excited interactions. It's a nice connection to have with friends; this comfortable strangeness.