Camping the Right Way

Emmalie Vanderpool

Fall in New Hampshire is a magical thing. It transforms the landscape to its greatest form as the leaves transition from green to gold, burgundy, and sunset orange. This year, my roommates and I planned a fall break trip to Lake Winnipesaukee, to stay at our friend’s cozy lakeside vacation home located in central New Hampshire. As we left Boston and its sea of industrial skyscrapers, the highway roads became flanked with tall trees and the wilderness marked our passage from the hustle and bustle of the city to the relaxed nature of lake living. The scenery was picturesque; the sun glinted off of the lake, the leaves rustled and fell around us, and the sight of stars and sounds of nature were almost startling after living next to the city for so long. We celebrated our first night with a dinner of cheese, crackers, and wine, and afterward roasted marshmallows in the wood-burning fireplace. Storybooks were never so close to coming to life as they were during our weekend away. 

Planning many little excursions, we got to shop in homegrown country stores, give ourselves heart attacks in a haunted corn maze, trek up a mountain to capture the perfect viewpoint of the lake, and end the trip with a group dinner at a restaurant called Camp. Nestled beside a candy store and small flowing waterfall, Camp fit right into the New Hampshire ambiance. 

The restaurant was themed to reflect classic summer camp, right down to the menu items and comfort foods, and it did not disappoint. We came equipped for the log cabin vibe and dressed mostly in oversized warm sweaters, ready to cover up the inevitable food babies that we were determined to leave with. Inside, the restaurant was reminiscent of a lodge. There were long wooden tables with names carved into them, red gingham curtains, wood-panelled walls, and a few stuffed animal heads which we avoided eye contact with as we ate our meal. It was warm, rustic, and loud with chattering patrons and happy diners. 

This was a celebratory event, bringing our girls’ trip to an end, so we splurged on drinks and appetizers. Our eyes lit up upon spotting the cheese-and-gravy fries, and the “Camp Crackers,” which consisted of a sliced cheesy flatbread with garlic and scallions–simple choices, but covered in enough cheese to satisfy everyone. The fries were served in a hot skillet; they were extra crispy but softened upon contact with the thick chicken gravy and melted cheese sauce. The crackers were salty and gooey, topped with a mixture of gorgonzola and cheddar cheese which worked quite well when dipped in the remnants of the fries’ gravy. The most memorable themed drinks consisted of a Honey Bourbon cocktail, a Boozy Hot Chocolate, and a Dirty Shirley Temple… all of which equally satisfied our childhood nostalgia and recently-turned-21 needs. After we collectively drained these, our waiter surprised us with homemade biscuits and whipped butter for the table. Of course we had no other option but to consume those as well. It was truly a glorious feast–and our main dishes were yet to arrive. 

The ordering process took some time due to the multitude of delicious choices; the menu was so perfectly crafted that it felt cruel to make us decide. Highlights from our final selection included the lobster mac and cheese, tempura chicken BBQ sandwich, veggie burger with curry aioli and pineapple salsa, bourbon-marinated steak tips, clam chowder, and falafel on naan bread. As our meals came out from the oven, we realized what a daunting task we laid out for ourselves; our stomachs whimpered in protest but we forged on. Uttering groans of dissent (which we silenced with more mouthfuls of food),we stuffed ourselves to fullest capacity on the piping hot and seemingly home-cooked meals. Everything was buttery, savory, and balanced, but certainly indulgent. My clam chowder was fresh and homemade, creamy and well-seasoned but not too thick. The biscuits were the perfect companion to the soup, allowing me to soak up every drop of the New England specialty. However, our night of eating still wasn’t complete. In celebration of our friend’s 22nd birthday, we received a complimentary order of Fireside S’mores. Held in a hot pan, the dessert was more of a dip, with a melted chocolate layer on the bottom and a toasted marshmallow layer on top. Strips of graham crackers were used to scoop it up. Full enough to burst, we knew by the end that we had made the very most of our camping trip. 


Elevating the Ramen Experience

Emmalie Vanderpool

As assignment due dates grow closer and Uber prices continue to rise, I find myself less and less inclined to trek to the grocery store and continue to buy fresh foods. With the arrival of the autumnal season, cozy, warm meals become so enticing–as long as I don’t have to spend the time and money to consume them. Repeatedly, and embarrassingly, I find myself making ramen packets because of how cheap, easy, and delicious they are. As a beginner, I gravitated towards the chicken-flavored, Maruchan-brand ramen. This version is classic, an oily soup with a light poultry taste. I soon grew tired of the monotony of what was basically a salted noodle soup, though, and began to test out the spicier ramen packets in the international food aisle. 

As a rule of thumb, the best ramen packets are generally those with Asian lettering, as they often have a deeper flavor profile with more authentic soup bases and spice mixes. I am personally fond of the flavors which require you to drink two glasses of milk while eating them, so as not to burn your taste buds off. Most grocery chains carry the Shin Ramyun brand, which includes both a soup base and multiple spice packets to create a fuller, more complex broth for the ramen noodles. Liquid flavoring works to thicken the soup and gives it a strong beef taste, which complements the chewy ramen noodles by coating them in umami-goodness while they cook. The dry flavor packet is composed of spices and dehydrated green onion, mushroom, and carrot, which round out the soup with subtleties to cut through the beef. Vegetables add both flavor and a slight texture to each mouthful of noodles. The level of spice produced by using the entirety of the liquid packet and the spice packet together is not for the faint of heart, but it is easy to adjust to a less volcanic burst of flavor by portioning the packets as desired and not adding them all at once. 

Elevating the ramen experience by purchasing higher quality brands is one step towards ramen transcendence, but there are many other little tricks to crafting a dinner-worthy ramen noodle soup. The polished, Kylie Jenner-route would be to add butter, garlic powder, and a scrambled egg–but we can do better than that. I believe garlic is an herb passed down by cosmic entities to grace the food of humanity, so I’ll give Kylie that one. Rather than adding butter and a scrambled egg, though, I would suggest a form of egg that has a runny yolk, perhaps soft-boiled or  sunny-side-up. The yolk of the egg thickens the soup, makes it creamier, and flavors the ramen noodles, while the white of the egg adds texture and protein so that you can pretend it is a nutritious meal. Other protein sources like tofu or pork are traditionally put in Japanese ramen, and work very well with noodles and broth. Adding soup-friendly fresh or frozen veggies like mushrooms, white onions, green onions, or jalapenos can add more of a bite to your soup and make it a well-balanced meal (though, is health what ramen is really about?). Flavoring the soup with bonus spices like hot chili oil or chili flakes, garlic powder, onion powder, curry powder, cumin, soy sauce, oyster sauce, sriracha, or even a dash of maple syrup can help cater to individual flavor preference. 

I am a firm believer in eliminating ramen shame, and I encourage anyone looking for a quick, hot, and inexpensive meal during the colder months to explore this college-friendly food. Little adjustments can make ramen more substantial, and the soup is a great base for adding in meat, veggies, and spices, according to taste. To my fellow Maruchan-beginners: you can do better!

Photo: New York Times, Slow Cooker Chicken Ramen with Bok Choy and Miso


Indulging in the Process

My dad loves to cook. To sear, season, and sautée. The timeline of his day, unfortunately, doesn’t allow ample time to produce a meal from start to finish. Our kitchen, in all of its preparatory glory—a steamy cloud of scents, all four burners occupied, ingredients strewn across every inch of counter space—is an atmosphere of organized chaos just before dinner. Returning home from his IT office, my dad will drop his leather messenger bag in the corner and proceed to dump his keys, wallet, and phone next to the coffeemaker. Immediately afterward, he launches into a string of offers to assist in any outstanding dinner tasks for my mother: “Should I fire up the grill? Can I put this glaze on? I’ll make the rice!” Given the opportunity, he jumps to contribute. My mom jokingly swats away his attempts at help, though, preferring to finish what she has started without explaining her every move to the latecomer.

“If we waited for me to get home,” he always laughs, “We’d end up setting the table at eight!” His removal from this process of making dinner, typically a high-stress and time-constrained experience, means that when he prepares food it is for sheer pleasure only, and at a leisurely pace all his own.

“We have grown accustomed to bursting through the door on weekends, only to find my dad transfixed in a peaceful atmosphere of kitchen alchemy.”

A few hand-picked items have become my dad’s pride and joy, and he has undoubtedly reached a level of mastery over them throughout the years. If he hasn’t already coached me and my sister through the production of these favorites, then he has threatened to do so at some not-too-distant point in the future. Whenever the mood strikes my dad, he’ll meander into the kitchen and start to pull out the flour and baking spray. We have grown accustomed to bursting through the door on weekends, only to find my dad transfixed in a peaceful atmosphere of kitchen alchemy. He’ll look up at us, called back to reality by our turning of the doorknob, as he cheerily draws a tray from the oven. In these scenarios, my mom will typically be bent over the kitchen table, stacks of recipe cards in front of her, scrutinizing the numbered lists and weighing our options for the evening. My dad’s therapeutic baking sessions always earn him a playful roll of her eyes. “Must be nice!” she’ll pipe up from her chair, mocking the frivolity of his kitchen use. Thanks to my dad’s role modeling, though, I will never be able to bake absent of his influence.

Scones are my dad’s true pièce de résistance. Each batch is a new masterpiece of his. Unless my mom, sister, or I request a different flavor, his go-to recipe consists of a sweet butter dough studded with currants. Why he refuses to simply call the added fruit “raisins” has become easy for us all to understand. The kitchen is where my dad likes to play with the more artisanal side of himself.

Born in Oregon, my dad has a special affnity for berries. His home in the mountains made for a quaint, almost surreal summer job between the ages of ten and eighteen—a produce picker at a farm across the street from his neighborhood. Strawberries, raspberries, and broccoli in the fall…he grew up surrounded by fresh ingredients, and was exposed to almost every imaginable method of their incorporation when it came to food. This piece of his childhood manifests itself in the way he attempts to insert the tiny, gem-like fruits wherever applicable. If my mom is making pancakes, muffins…bread in any form, really, he’ll lean over her shoulder and ask whether she’d like him to retrieve some of our seasonal berry stores from the chest freezer downstairs. “Honey, this is cinnamon coffee cake—it doesn’t call for anything else,” she might respond in exasperation.

“I know, but there are berries…” my dad will trail off, realizing he isn’t clearing any ground. To this point, he will sometimes swap locally picked blueberries or peaches for his classic Sun-Maid currants in scones.

About halfway through his recipe, things start to get complicated. My family has a pastry blender that looks a little like a horseshoe, with five thick, silver wires bent into a loop and attached on either end to a thick rubber handle. In the only instances I’ve ever seen it put to use, my dad digs out this tool for the step of butter-cutting. Patiently jamming the wires into a room-temperature block of margarine, he uses a fork to scrape the resulting slivers off the metal. Painstaking and messy. If my sister and I are helping him, we attempt (with no avail) to speed through this process. “The butter is the most important part,” my dad explains, never possessing any sense of urgency. “That’s where the flakiest layers come from.” Envisioning the translucent sheets of dough, stacked piping hot under the shell of his golden biscuits, my mouth always waters. I stifle any harbored complaints.

With a handful of currants and a quick combination of wet and dry, my dad is soon placing eight evenly-spaced triangles onto our worn slate baking sheets. The fruits-to-labor ratio in this recipe is a source of personal frustration for me. An hour of work and only eight pieces in total? My dad, of course, doesn’t mind. Wielding a bristled brush, he furrows his brow and leans over the trays, lovingly brushing a coat of melted butter atop each glistening slice of dough. Deftly sprinkling raw cane sugar onto their tops, his goal is a delicate crunch with every bite. Then fate is left to the oven.

The art of cooking has never intentionally been gendered in my family. Preparing our meals does often fall into my mom’s hands, but this is a pattern which fell into place organically, following her decision to leave work and stay home with me and my sister. She has taught me most of what I know, in a practical sense. It is by her side that I’ve witnessed our family traditions in action: blending coleslaw dressing, rolling a fresh pie crust (store-bought would be sacrilege), simmering winter bean chili. Her wealth of knowledge is a source I will draw from for the rest of my life. My dad’s attitude, however—even more than his unique set of skills—is what will inspire me always.

The whimsical approach which my dad takes to food is one I seek to imitate. He has shown me the presence of bliss in the kitchen. By devoting energy to select cuisinal items, he has allowed himself to explore their intricacies, and so emerge with a level of personal satisfaction which I can only hope to emulate. The thorough advice he presents my sister and I comes from a place of passion rather than a sense of responsibility, and it sincerely shows. Everyone has to eat and drink, and from the point of creation to consumption my dad does so merrily.



Barcelona Wine Bar and Restaurant

Valentina Pardo

I shifted my weight from one leg to another as we stood in line. A warm sense of familiarity and excitement fluttered in my chest. Laura raised her eyebrow and looked at her watch for the tenth time and muttered something under that heavy accent that I couldn’t understand. Carlota just sighed and kept hovering over the people in front of us, standing in her toes and trying to get a look at the place that had attracted so many hungry people. I ignored Laura’s skeptical eyes; I knew that if they did not seat us in the next five minutes, she was going to walk to the pizza place next door. Over my dead body. Luckily enough, we were invited right in before those two murdered me. If it were any other restaurant, I would not have dared to bring my friends with me, because what right does a Colombian have on taking two born-and-raised Spaniards to eat at a Spanish restaurant? I know…none. But don’t blame me. I had a craving for jàmon and Manchego croquetas that had been nudging at me for weeks.

Barcelona Wine Bar and Restaurant is tightly nestled along the busy and never-ending Beacon Street, but undeniably stands out with its heavy glass doors and gray rustic tiles of vintage looking wood. Sitting at dinner with my friends, we didn’t feel like we were just eating food, we were actually enjoying ourselves without caring about our deafening Spanish voices and unbridled laughter. Most importantly, we were happy, and in that we were not alone. Smiles seemed to be served by the waiters, along with the golden olive oil and freshly baked bread.

Barcelona’s dynamic menu includes a refreshing variety of seasonal ingredients and complex flavors that keep the customers on their toes. They also serve the best wine from their award-winning selections of bottles from Spain and South America. Hence, their gastronomic combination of tradition and experimentation represents the two different worlds inside the venue.

In the “young and hip” side of the restaurant, you have the big parties of students, in groups of no less than eight to ten people, all sitting in rows of never-ending tables with three or four pitchers of red wine sangria passed around like water. Sitting in that sea of compulsive selfie takers, you are bound to either hear the well-known “happy birthday” song awkwardly spat out by a bunch of off-tune voices, or the melody of a tipsy, overly-emotional parent commemorating their child who has graduated and barely made it to the merciless world of the labor market. Left and right, servers can be spotted clumsily trying to fit all of the table participants into one single shot so the memory of the evening can be later recalled and shared.

At Barcelona it always feels like everybody is celebrating something.

Contrastingly, the left side of the restaurant is filled with the “grown-ups” sitting patiently along the bar, individuals with nine-to-five jobs that desperately need a break from the conference rooms and phone calls, and seek to escape with a good bottle of Pinot Noir or Albariño. On this side, though, celebrations are also present, normally caused by unexpected promotions, anniversaries, or the mere fact that the hell-of-a-week they’ve been having has finally come to an end. On Fridays and Saturdays, however, the space catches more energy. All of a sudden, the stools are no longer compatible with the number of bodies seeking to drink and the room begins to look more like a cocktail party than the “sit down quietly and drink your sorrows” type of bar found anywhere else. Barcelona brings out the best in everyone as it becomes a place where people can come together and drink without feeling guilty, because it’s drinking in honor of something, or someone.

Although the types of celebrations can vary between the two different sides of the restaurant, there is a factor that brings all of the people together, regardless of age or upcoming salary: the food. The food is the same in every single table. The beauty of eating at a tapas place like Barcelona is that there are no rules when it comes to ordering. You don’t have to choose just one dish, you can order all of them if you want. Can’t decide between the gambas al ajillo or the sweet potato hummus? Try them both! Eating at Barcelona is a unique experience as it gives you the freedom to experiment. If you don’t like something, chances are somebody else will eat it–this gives you room to keep trying bits and pieces of everything until you find those flavors you’re looking for. Last year’s Executive Chef Steven Brand basically sums it up as he says, “It’s not just dining because you’re hungry, it’s dining because it’s fun.” It’s fun to celebrate and mix things up in your palate. It is fun to let yourself be surprised or even disturbed by the unexpected flavors stuck in between your teeth.

But don’t be fooled into thinking that sharing only applies to the tapas – trust me, you are going to want to order more than one dessert. There is no way of choosing only one. My friends and I ordered the porras, spanish churros. With one bite, I got everything one looks for in a churro: the perfect crunchiness in the outside and the comfort of the softness in the inside. I was not overwhelmed by the cinnamon sugar in any way, and it paired perfectly with the taste of the fresh dough and the side of melted chocolate. But, as you may expect, curiosity got the best of us, so we ordered the dulce de leche crepe. The vanilla ice cream on top melted against the warm crepe while the layer of chocolate sauce and crushed walnuts added a satisfying crunch to the bite. This sweet combination was the perfect ending we were looking for to feel satisfied, and after taking a look at the check, we found yet another reason to celebrate.

So, when it comes to properly enjoying this transcendental experience of eating at Barcelona, there is one general rule that you need to follow. Drumroll please…you have to be hungry! And, yes, I mean this literally and if you are, you will not be disappointed, especially if you order the patatas bravas, or the chorizo with sweet and sour figs. The bravas are the Spanish classic, and the chef respects tradition as he cuts them in the traditional cube form, and adds nothing to them but paprika, the aioli sauce, and their famous salsa brava. The potatoes are fried to perfection–every time I order them they are cloaked by a golden crunch that you have to bite though to get the softness hidden inside. The saltiness of the potato is married to the creamy garlic sauce, creating a perfect balance. On the other hand, the chorizo with sweet and sour figs is everything but traditional. Who would have guessed that chorizo, an ingredient that is in itself salty and fatty, would get along so well with figs and caramelized brown sugar? A genius, that’s who. But when I refer to hunger, I also mean another type of hunger, a hunger for celebration and community. Yes, you have to crave the rich taste of Spanish culture, but you also have to yearn for the long conversations and the sense of unity that the restaurant harbors. Barcelona serves the food in small plates on purpose: it wants you to interact with those around you. It sets you up so that when you’re asking for someone to pass the delicious seafood paella, you are inevitably starting a conversation; you are sparking a new connection or strengthening another relationship. Thus, Barcelona Wine Bar and Restaurant celebrates life with you and stays open until the last guest leaves. In the meantime, as those last few plates are passed around and scraped clean and the glasses are refilled until the last drop, you have just enough time to raise your glasses and say, salud!

Barcelona Wine Bar and Restaurant, 1700 Beacon St, Brookline, MA 02446


Finding Home in Three Brookline Coffee Shops

Claire Madden

Whenever I am feeling tired of my apartment, of my bedroom and living room and especially the kitchen, with its frozen berry stains and lemony overhead light, I make a coffee run. I am looking for somewhere new to go and some caffeine, but there is something more pressing about seeking out a coffee shop. I am searching for somewhere warm and fresh, a place I do not have to maintain or nourish myself, a second home. Three Brookline-area coffee shops in particular fulfill this definition of home for me, weary or restless as I feel. Tatte, Caffè Nero, and Café Fixe, all conveniently nestled on either side of the C Line, each present a different and entirely welcome sense of home.

If I were to categorize each of these coffee shops as different rooms in a house–think a sprawling, bright house surrounded by greenery—Tatte would certainly be the kitchen. Walking in feels like you have woken up early in the morning to be greeted with ample sunshine and warm lamps, buzzing conversation, and the smell of fresh coffee and pastries. It is a place that feels like home, down to the apothecary-style table that holds quiches and croissants, the subway tile lining the walls, and the hand-written menus. Glass jars of granola and biscotti dot a well-stocked counter, and just above crisp tote bags for sale, a vintage portrait hangs. You do not feel as though you are intruding on someone’s busy mealtime, but instead you are ushered in, welcomed. A large farm table in the center of the restaurant encourages this kind of community—when I arrived, two impeccably dressed women sat at one corner, looking at photos of their grandchildren, and at the other, a group of students happily chatted over muffin crumbs. Tatte inspires brightness and familiarity, with chairs turned casually toward each other and an abundance of brilliant tile and glassware. I ordered a latte and a crimson berry herbal tea—good for either an energy spike first thing in the morning, or a leisurely start—as well as a lightly sweet strawberry-raspberry meringue. The latte’s artistry was rivalled only by the vibrant berry color of the tea, and the satisfying crack of the meringue. Tatte offers a distinct freshness and openness, the first taste of spring.


Caffè Nero, just a few stops up the C Line towards Cleveland Circle, offers a completely different, yet just as comforting, sense of place. If Tatte is the kitchen, then Caffè Nero is the infinitely cozy living room. It is the type of place I would duck into if I was struggling to warm up deep in the winter, or just wanted a quiet place to finish a book or an assignment. It seems like a salve for the homesick—maybe for me in particular, after seeing a basket of Italian Baci Perugina chocolates at the counter that brought me back to my grandparents’ kitchen. The patrons who frequent the café are equally warm, like an older woman who offered me her chair when she saw I was sitting on the ground to get a quick photo of my chai latte (a particularly incredible one, just sweet enough). Lined with books, old and new, and furnished with brightly-colored plush armchairs and couches, Caffè Nero could be anyone’s dream living room. The abundance of color is striking, from the raspberry macaron I ordered, to their signature sky-blue cups, to a soft pink wall that climbs toward exposed beams. When I arrived, it was crowded but almost completely silent; sitting there felt oddly like sitting with your family, all working or reading or watching something else, but together. The café is centered around a large fireplace and a circle of pastel-blue booths, and even as people enjoy their own sandwiches and salads and coffees and pastries, it does feel as though you are enjoying this time together.

Caffè Nero

If Caffè Nero and Tatte are places to settle in and find community, than Café Fixe is the spot to take a breath and have a little time to yourself. I think it is a particularly good option if you are feeling overwhelmed or weary of your own space. Right across the street from Caffè Nero in Washington Square, Café Fixe offers a completely different environment: it is noticeably smaller than the other shops, but this affords a new tranquility and intimacy. I found it to be almost like the sunroom of a house—not as bright and bustling, or cozy and studious, but radiating calm. I ordered a macchiato, which came in a small porcelain cup that fit perfectly atop the slim bar—it was bold and intense, a striking contrast to the serenity of the café itself. The walls are painted pastel blue, and the light wood bar along the wall invites one’s tired arms or large cappuccino beside a laptop. The decor is minimal, yet well-considered: orchids perch on top of cabinets or beside the cash register, and a small collection of pastries and desserts fills a rustic wooden and glass case. The café does not have a large seating area, but its sparseness does not mean it lacks warmth or closeness–the only other customers in the café at the time were a father and his toddler son, one working on a document, and the other sitting perfectly upright on the high stool, watching a kids’ show. Going to Café Fixe allows you to take a moment, alone or together.

Café Fixe

Tatte Bakery and Cafe, 1003 Beacon St, Brookline, MA 02446

Caffè Nero, 1633 Beacon St, Brookline, MA 02445

Café Fixe, 1642 Beacon St, Brookline, MA 02245


Snapshots of a Sustainable Food System

by Anne-Marie Green

Considering how much time we spend eating each day, rarely do we ask ourselves: where does our food come from? Who feeds us? These are questions I personally find troubling as a devoted foodie and an environmentalist. We eat with the hope that our food comes from clean, responsible and perhaps even picturesque places, but we really eat blindly, without any evidence that our food got to us in a way that supports our values.

In search of some “evidence,” I endeavored to photograph and learn about some of the food partners of BC Dining, including the kitchens of BC Dining itself. I explored four arenas of the greater food system, visiting two producers (Ward’s Berry Farm and North Coast Seafood), one provider (BC Dining) and one waste handler (Save That Stuff), in order to understand my food better than I did before. At every site, I encountered overwhelmingly passionate people, and was dazzled by the complex and innovative processes behind every meal. I hope these photos empower and inform you in the same way they did me, and that they may satisfy at least a bit of your curiosity of the origin of our food.

Ward’s Berry Farm is located in Sharon, Massachusetts, and supplies Boston College with vibrant produce like squash, peaches, tomatoes, zucchini and pumpkin. The process of it getting from soil to campus begins with picking. Jenna (photo 1a) and Rory (photo 1c) are year-round pickers, but Ward’s also employs several part time workers during the harvesting season, who, as Rory explained, are typically young people who come from as far as Ecuador looking for temporary work. While Rory viewed the picking process fondly — savoring long, sunny days spent outdoors — he also described it as grueling. Pickers go out in almost all weather conditions, including heavy rain and hail. He considered this past season to be unusually rainy, actually over-watering many of the crops.

This picked produce travels to the factory to be washed and packaged (photo 1b). In the factory, two young women wash yellow squash grown at Ward’s in order to send them in a CSA box, which are assembled down the hall. Ward’s does a local farm share with several colleges, providing their “farmer’s choice boxes” to BC Dining’s CSA Program (Community Shared Agriculture). CSA Members get a weekly surprise box of assorted produce grown at Ward’s, often with various squash species, including this yellow one. Every box is like a food puzzle: what dishes can be made so that none of the vegetable is wasted? My suggestion for turnips: bake turnip “fries” with salt and paprika, and sautee the greens (which are even more nutritious than kale) with maple syrup or honey to cut the bitterness.

While post-consumer food waste is an issue commonly tackled through composting programs, farms themselves also generate a significant amount of food waste. Ward’s efficiently feeds their excess produce to a small pen of pigs (photo 1d). The pigs gobble up produce with baffling speed — they finish one squash the size of a liter soda bottle before you can blink.

North Coast Seafoods, a seafood company based in Boston’s Drydock,  sources all of BC Dining’s seafood. Andrew Wilkinson, a Seafood Specialist and Chef R&D with North Coast, gave me a tour of the fishing docks and North Coast’s processing facility. Andrew and I got there early enough in the morning to see a fewthat a few North Coast-sponsored fishermen were unloading freshly caught Redfish, a fairly underutilized but still delicious local deep sea species. Because the species is a small to medium sized fish, much of what the fishermen bring in cannot be sold to restaurants as a standard fillet size. Andrew’s creative solution iswas to sort and source the smaller catches to local primary schools for a “fish n’ chips” school lunch. Most primary public schools lack healthful and fresh school lunches, he said, so what better way to make use of local, sustainably caught Redfish than to feed our next generation?

Next, Andrew showed me around the processing facility. I was stunned to witness the complex technology that produces the seafood that we, especially as Bostonians, love so much. Salmon filets travelled through a conveyor belt to remove hundreds of small bones, and employees removed the rest with tweezers (photo 2a). In such a high tech facility, none of the bones, guts or fish heads get wasted. North Coast collects these inedible or unwanted fish parts and creates “gurry”: a highly nutrient dense mixture used in fish oil supplements, pet food and fertilizer. Lastly, while touring the facility I soon realized that it smelled…normal. Andrew explained that when fish are removed from the ocean, bacteria can flourish, materializing in that infamous fishy smell. To prevent this, hanging from the ceiling throughout the facility were hoses of ozonated, or electrically charged, water that when sprayed on fish, it eliminates all surface bacteria so that the “fishy” smell disappears. Andrew excitedly asked me to press my nose right up against a half cut bass to discover the true fishy scent for myself. I sniffed it reluctantly, but it was actually pleasant, earthy and natural. Andrew said it was his favorite smell.  

BC Dining serves approximately 22,000 meals to thousands of students everyday. But behind the kitchens, it’s clear there are diverse and familial communities within each dining hall (see 3d for a window into the community members at Hillside). Student employees work hard every day to feed their fellow students (photo 3c), and all employees handle massive amounts of food each day for students’ breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks (photo 3b).

While there is significant consistency across dining halls, each unit adds a unique flare to the food that it serves. This is excellently embodied in the cookies. Each dining hall has a signature cookie recipe, like the wide and chunky Hillside cookie, the giant Stuart cookie and famously gooey Eagle’s cookie. This is because the bakery for all BC Dining baked goods is located right behind the Eagles Nest, home to Executive pastry chef Tim Fonseca, a baking master with a competitive edge. Tim makes sure to add a little extra love and chocolate chips to uphold Eagle Nests’ rumored status as the best cookie on campus.

Interning with BC Dining’s sustainability team has given me the privilege of working beside cooks, like Derek (Photo 3a), during FRESH to Table Kitchen Demos on Wednesdays. Every week, the chefs at Lower and the BC Dining sustainability team collaborate to serve and give samples of a dish that is either Fairly Traded, Regional, Equitable, Sustainable or Healthy. Students know this as the night with free (and delicious) samples, but the chefs, managers, and interns like myself consider Wednesday nights as sacred opportunities to share our passion for sustainable food. While I enjoy virtually all FRESH Demos, especially the dessert samples, I particularly enjoy when we sample underutilized fish species, like hake and pollock. This reminds me that we e have power as consumers of seafood: if we are willing to experiment beyond the typical seafood menu, and are persistent in pursuing responsible sourcing, we can help to balance our overfished oceans by trying one of the many underutilized species.

Save That Stuff is the processing facility that collects all of Boston College’s recycling, trash and food waste. While students toss food scraps in bins labelled “compost,” Save That Stuff does not necessarily compost the food that comes to them; they do something a little more novel with exciting ramifications for the future of organic waste handling. First processed to extract non-organic materials like food packaging, food scraps are then handled by engineers like Conrad (photo 4a), who mix the food in a chemically balanced Engineered Bio-Slurry (EBS). Marc Galardi, Business Development Manager of Save That Stuff, explained that certain companies are obligated to send Save That Stuff their pre-consumer food if the waste total exceeds 200 lbs. This rule explains the unsettling amount of Ben & Jerry’s pints (photo 4d) being stored in the food waste processing room when I visited the facility in November. The pints of Brownie Batter ice cream had never been enjoyed; Marc explained that they were likely in the facility due to labeling inconsistencies or allergy conflicts, which he said was not unusual. In these cases, waste production is left out of the consumer’s control, rendering even the most faithful environmentalist, like myself, feeling lost and helpless.

But what was done with the EBS restored my excitement for proper waste management practices — after the EBS is stored in giant, dark green industrial cylinders, it is sent to a wastewater treatment facility in Lawrence, MA, to be combined with septic waste. This facility not only converts the gas of this mixture into energy through the process of anaerobic digestion, but also transforms the solid remains into fertilizer pellets. Conrad appeared delighted that the resource potential of food waste is harvested nearly to full completion at Save That Stuff.

With Save That Stuff, the food circle is essentially closed. Our food is grown at the farm or caught from the sea, prepared and consumed, and then, ideally, re-harvested to create energy or enrich soil to restart the entire cycle. It should be noted, however, that while these photos represent a microscopic window into the realm of our food, this glimpse is also somewhat utopic. Not always is our food picked by Jenna or Rory, our fish handled with so much care by Andrew, or recycled properly by Marc or Conrad. This project, while partly curiosity-satisfying, truly leaves me wanting to know more: is there an uglier side of food production, and what would that look like?  

Indeed, only a small percentage of our food is grown and caught locally by sustainable and caring producers (about nine percent in Massachusetts), and unless we actively compost, our food scraps are wasted in an incinerator or landfill. If we allow ourselves the time and research, we can make small decisions that support food production as it should be: regional, sustainable and efficient. In this way, our consumer power and awareness of sustainability become tools to bring a beautiful, responsible food system to fruition — one of which we can be unwaveringly proud.


Mamá Dora’s Ceviche

Carolina Gazal

I am convinced that my grandmother has healing powers. Mamá Dora, my petite five-foot-tall, white haired and freckled grandmother, has the antidote to nearly every ailment. Within my family, we refer to her powers as brujería, which translates to witchcraft, because some of her cures and concoctions defy the staunch American medicinal traditions we’ve been coddled by. For instance, if I complained about an earache, my grandmother would roll up a newspaper, carefully lodge it in my ear, light a match, and my pain would vanish. She was well aware of the cupping method decades before athletes co-opted it, and knows how to “properly” do so without leaving bruises. She even dispels evil spirits and energies from our home with a mere white egg and her secretive whispers. However, her cooking has proved to be the most magical remedy of all her tricks and cures. Her recipes are like potions, undoubtedly guaranteed to heal and cure the most aching hunger to the most painful heartbreak.

I’ve watched in quiet admiration as Mamá Dora has treated and fed every cousin, uncle, aunt, and everyone in between. One of her specialties is ceviche, a dish made of fresh raw fish cured in lime juice, thickly chopped onions, and bits of spicy yellow ají. Mamá Dora’s ceviche is the perfect remedy for the type of sadness that induces hunger, the answer to every exasperated “I miss home.” Ceviche has cured my hunger and homesickness more times that I can remember. It has saved my mother from the anxiety of coming home empty-handed, and is the neutralizer that keeps our family gatherings tolerable. Instead of receiving a pale and tasteless chicken noodle soup when we’re sick, we receive a spicy bowl of ceviche. Mamá Dora’s potent ceviche has cured us all, and it is only made from a few ingredients. All she needs is one white fish, an onion, some limes, and cilantro to make a fulfilling meal, like an alchemist turning common metals into gold.

The origins of ceviche are hazy and often argued about. Most people agree that it was founded in Latin America, but Peruvians like myself believe the legend that ceviche was created when an Incan emperor demanded fresh fish, but could not travel the distance to retrieve the fish. When it was discovered that lime juice would keep the fish as fresh as possible when traveling from the sea to the top of the mountains, an important part of Peru’s national heritage was born. I imagine a chasquis, a professional Incan runner, balancing a carefully constructed bowl of raw fish and lime juice while dashing back to Cusco. Ceviche’s legacy has been passed down from the hands of Incan royalty to my grandmother’s compact and sun-spotted hands, marked by decades of sitting under the sun, slicing avocados, raising every child in the family, and cooking more than fifty years’ worth of breakfasts, lunches, and dinners.

My grandmother must have perfected this recipe more so out of convenience rather than tradition. My grandfather, Papá Lucho, was a fisherman who had access to the finest fresh fish on a daily basis in Peru’s chief seaport, Callao. My mother often reminds me of how hard life was back then. Even though Mamá Dora is a skilled cook and healer, she lacked the education to secure a steady job amidst the rocky political climate. Surviving off a fisherman’s wages was not easy. After an earthquake destroyed their town, they were forced to uproot and move to a safer neighborhood. My mother still dwells on all of her precious childhood mementos that she was forced to leave behind, but notes that this relocation brought her a better life. Although they spent most of their time at school or on the beach, their city was still unsafe. They were forced to live by citywide curfew in order to protect them from criminals that lurked around during the night. They persevered, and even grew stronger from all that they endured. Mamá Dora was able to make her meals a constant in their unpredictable lives. They could always count on ceviche to fulfill their hunger, and I believe this is what makes Mamá Dora’s ceviche so strong and so good.

My mouth waters when I think of the ceviche Mamá Dora must have concocted, using only the best fish from the oceans of Peru, and freshly picked cilantro that my mother purchased at the local market. Although my mother never specifically speaks about eating ceviche in Peru when she was my age, I have the most vivid vision of what this scene would look like. I see Mamá Dora, short but sturdy, slicing onions but not crying because she is immune to the smell. I see my grandfather, standing tall and dancing to the Beethoven he still plays in his senile state today. I see my mother with the same unruly hair and petite features that I have now inherited. She is squeezing limes next to her two statuesque brothers. They are all tan from days spent at the beach. They tower over my grandmother, helping to cook what is now my favorite meal.

Although my siblings and I don’t get to see our grandmother as often as we would like, a few hours is enough to indulge our cravings for a good meal. Our stays include my grandfather wagging his finger to the sky to the tune of Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata,” my mother whispering secrets to my grandmother while she steams sweet potatoes, and an occasional guest who heard Mamá Dora was cooking. Cousins and uncles that I haven’t seen in months will suddenly appear at the door when she is cooking. Mamá Dora always welcomes them in with a hug and a plate. Ceviche not only has the power to convince me to eat raw fish, but also to teleport relatives from all parts of New York to the very end of Long Island.

One warm spring afternoon a handful of years ago, Mamá Dora decided that ceviche would be the first meal we learned to properly cook. She placed a single piece of white fish onto a wooden cutting board in front of my sister and ordered her to chop it into small chunks. I was on cilantro duty, washing each sprig and plucking only the “good leaves” off of the stem (the bigger leaves without spots). This assignment proved that I was not trusted with a large knife. After Mamá Dora noticed that the pieces of fish were too big, and that I had placed too much cilantro into the bowl, she laughed at our pathetic attempts. I wondered how a dish with so few ingredients could be so complicated. Although Mamá Dora wanted to help us perfect our ceviche-making skills, my mother hurriedly took over, exclaiming that we didn’t have enough time to learn how to make ceviche.

Just as champagne is best served in a flute washed in hot water, ceviche is best served on a flat and wide bowl. It is best displayed to show off the bright orange flecks of ají, the pale white raw fish, and the scattered leaves of dark green cilantro. My mother likes to add her own flair to her ceviche, placing slices of cooked sweet potatoes around the rim of her special ceviche plate, which perfectly absorb the lime juice and add a shocking taste to the plain sweet potato.

Ceviche is the perfect meal to eat on a hot summer day. The lime juice, cold and refreshing, is guaranteed to cool you down while the spiciness of the raw onions and ají will surely wake you up. My summer weekends are filled with family gatherings in my grandmother’s tiny and un-air conditioned apartment, but none of us complain because we are eating ceviche. My Tío James sits on a stool smiling, telling my siblings and me that ceviche is good for your lungs and improves your circulation. My grandfather grins without teeth, still wagging his finger to the sky. I reach for seconds and thirds, savoring my grandmother’s meal while it lasts.

If you are truly feeling down, Mamá Dora prescribes a spoonful of Leche del Tigre, or Tiger’s Milk, the juice that remains at the bottom of the ceviche bowl. Best consumed with your largest metal spoon, the juice is fiery and has collected all the cilantro leaves that have been marinating under the fish. If you are feeling brave, drink straight from the bowl. Beware the splashes that can feel like a cold splatter of salty seawater on a sunburn. One spoonful is all you need to quench your desire for flavor. First you will feel the zesty juice tickle your lips, urging you to drink more. Tears may spring to your eyes if you are unaccustomed to this kind of spice. Then you will feel a cool and invigorating splash on your tongue, quelling the itchiness on your lips. Drink until you feel it in the pit of your stomach, filling you with the strength of a tiger.


About 4 servings

  • 1 1/2 pounds of fish fillets (basa, swai, tilapia or flounder) diced into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 ají amarillos, veins and seeds removed (if you like it spicy do not remove the veins or seeds)
  • 1/2 cup of freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 2 teaspoons of chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • Salt to taste


  • 2 sweet potatoes, boiled, peeled and cut 1/4 inch thick
  • 2 ears of corn, boiled and cut in half

1 Rinse the fish in cold water, drain well and salt to taste. Soak the sliced onion in room temperature water for 5 minutes, drain well and set aside.

2 Meanwhile, place the lime juice, ají amarillo and one piece of fish in a blender until smooth. Place fish in a bowl and pour in the mixture, mixing well. Stir in the chopped cilantro. Let it marinate for 10 minutes.

3 When ready to serve, arrange slices of sweet potato and ceviche, and top it with the onions and cilantro.

Note: Ají amarillo can be found frozen or canned in most Latin American supermarkets. Mama Dora’s choice is frozen