Today the outside temperature is 80 degrees and the sun is bright, so lunch is a salad bar with about 60 items to choose from—including eggs laid this morning, vegetables harvested yesterday, turkey and beef that we’ve raised, and cheeses made from our cows’ milk. On a cold day, we would serve something hot and substantial—again drawing from the farm. Towards autumn and winter holidays and towards the end of the academic year, the meals become celebratory. But what we serve always depends on what the students have helped grow or harvest.
Perhaps because students are the food and meal producers (they help cook and serve, too), they are more willing than they might otherwise be to eat a varied diet. This means I can emphasize variety. At the same time, I know that students’ moods are greatly improved by foods they’re used to—by what they think of as ‘home cooking.” Everyone needs it.
We have students here from about two dozen countries. When I travel, I visit alumni, and set out with them to experience the food of the region. Yes, we eat in fancy restaurants, but we eat a country’s fast food, too. Most of all I like to eat with alumni in their homes, and learn from them and their parents and, best, grandparents their food traditions. That way, when I get back to Putney, there is one more type of ‘home cooking’ I can regularly serve.