{ I've got the itch (and no, it's not my mango allergy) }

As a college graduate working at a college in a college town, try as you might, your life is still very much defined by the schedule of the college, and by extension, its students' schedules. Every January, I get an itch. Oberlin trained me well to get all antsy and creative every January. It's winter term, after all, the glorious time to explore, to cookeatreadwatchthingshangoutwithfriends and all those other easing-into-the-new-year activities, and to hone in on something new and focus on doing that one great thing for four solid weeks.

Great's a hard word, especially in academia. A final product is necessary in a number of projects (winter term or otherwise) but in many ways, it's about progress and realizations within that span of time that are important and long-lasting. In the 100 or so hours you are required to dedicate to your winter term project each year, you can only do so much (but, oh, you can do SO MUCH!). Winter term is excellent in that it gives you the opportunity to dedicate time to doing something more deeply than before, but it's only a drop in the bucket if you subscribe to Malcolm Gladwell's proposal of 10,000 hours to reach mastery.

Are we aiming for mastery? Not exactly. To lift a phrase from dear Tolkien: it's the journey, not the arrival, that matters. Process, not product, is the reason to spend your time exploring something in particular during winter term. You're gaining experience, something that sounds pretty wishy-washy when you say it out loud, but that's the thing you couldn't trade for the world. As a newly minted Grown-up with a capital G who possesses a big-kid job, I'm finding it hard to find a set of days to, say, travel to another country, to begin writing a cookbook, to start a new film project, or even to sit down and read a book for fun (I'm getting better at this last one, however gradually).

This month, I've deemed my project to be related to three things I like very much: food, people, and Oberlin. Well, two projects. Maybe three. But definitely one. (Decision-making is hard, okay?)

I'm doing two things right off the bat:

I'm reading cookbooks, both in my own collection and from other sources (hellooooo Oberlin Public Library!). You learn so much from reading cookbooks. They're all about basics and process, and there are few things I like more than process; it's how you can start to shape it into something of your own. A grasp on ingredients and the kinds of actions you can apply to them means you have a limitless combination of things to create.

Overwhelming much? Perhaps yes, but that's one of the reasons I like cooking so much, and by extension, sharing it with others. When I cook, it's a learning experience, but in cooking/eating/blogging about something I cooked and ate, someone else can learn from that too. I can't stop, won't stop being an educator. (We'll refrain from talking about a winter term project I'm mentoring this year that's been nicknamed "The Need to Feed" at this juncture, because I do believe it'll be a whole post on its own.)

The other thing I'm doing this month is trying to tap into the psyche of Oberlin foodies. Why do all the grandest people in my Oberlin life also happen to be interested in food? (I know I chose my friends well, but this is a trend that's much bigger than my own social circle.) Why is it that Oberlin blood runs thick with tomato sauce, our lungs are filled with the aroma of freshly-baked rosemary bread and caramelized onions, and our heads are brimming with noodles? There's something here that brings us Obies together for a good meal or for a good food cause, on campus and elsewhere, and it's not just that we're hungry.

So, tell me in the comments, of your most memorable Oberlin meal, your favorite co-op or dorm kitchen concoction, your experiences with food academically — classes, winter terms, internships — or while getting your hands dirty in a professional capacity. Your main challenge, should you choose to accept, is to make me drool while I contemplate the greater forces at play in the Oberlin kitchen.

What are you waiting for? I'm hungry.

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{ Responses To This Entry }

It's not quite a meal, but hands down one of my favorite-est memories from my co-op days:
Harkness, 2nd semester Freshman year. Mog made muffins late every Wednesday night, same day as cider delivery, and often at the same time as bread was coming out of the oven. (And I didn't even have to leave my dorm!) It was just all sorts of wonderful bedtime delicious.

Posted by: Rusty '10 on January 7, 2013 5:48 PM

Mog muffin day was the grandest day and one of my favorite lasting memories of Hark.

Also, remember the White Squirrel special meal? It was one of the classiest meals I've eaten anywhere in the world!

Posted by: Ma'ayan on January 8, 2013 11:21 AM

i was a head cook at tank in '06-'07 but my most memorable meal was at harkness i think in '04 or '05. lydia came out of the kitchen in some not-at-all-chef-like outfit with a couple of giant trays of sliced bananas piled high that she set on one of the tables. she had a bottle of what was probably brandy in each hand and stepped on a chair to climb up onto the table and stand in between the trays. she yelled to the crowd 'WE ARE HAVING BANANAS FLAME FOR DESSERT' and dumped the contents of the liquor bottles onto the trays. the entire co-op broke out in cheering and hollering as she lit the platters on fire with a match and we did indeed have bananas flambe for dessert and i will never forget it as long as i live.

Posted by: obie '07 on January 8, 2013 11:54 AM

How delightfully delicious, mysterious Obie! Many of my most memorable moments derived in the Hark kitchens/dining room. The musical meal, pirates vs. ninjas, every food that began with the letter P, a wedding meal (with an enormous decorated cake), the diner meal.


Posted by: Ma'ayan on January 9, 2013 11:44 AM

Okay, this is maybe something I shouldn't confess into the world of the interwebs, but oh well - my best food experience at Oberlin, hands down, was co-head-cooking a special meal at Keep with my friend Aviva. The theme? Ke$ha (or, as we liked to call it, "Ke$hal meal"). The menu included a pasta with vodka sauce, a dish called "your love is my beer-battered tofu", a salad with champagne vinaigrette dressing, and a rum cake for dessert. (I know, it almost sounded like it could be alcohol-themed! Such is the world of Ke$ha. Besides, it was all cooked :)) But we dressed in brightly-colored spandex and painted our faces and offered glitter to anyone who would take it and blasted pop music and danced around like maniacs. It was absolutely ridiculous, but also delicious! And so much freakin' fun. Does this make me less of a "foodie"? Either way, I'll remember that dinner for the rest of my life! :)

Posted by: Paris on January 10, 2013 2:57 PM

Paris, by no means does this make you less of a foodie. - say the girl who you spent a Thanksgiving dressed as the fiercest of pirates while she cooked dinner.

(But for real: that meal sounds incredibly delicious, and more so based on the surroundings and costumes, too!)

Posted by: Ma'ayan on January 10, 2013 4:35 PM

Honestly, one of the Oberlin meals that's stuck in my head the most is the meal I met you over. Caramelized onion/asparagus/brie crèpes. Also, mint chocolate cupcakes. (I'm sure there was something else too. Was there something else?) Also, BANANAGRAMS. Also, it was a birthday meal for a friend of mine you'd never even met before who you didn't think deserved to be semi-alone on his birthday in an Oberlin sucked dry of denizens by Fall Break. That was very cool of you and Brandi and I decided on the spot that I should endeavor to make friends with you.

Posted by: Ida on January 16, 2013 7:32 PM

There was French onion soup! (I don't remember all the foods I've ever made, but I do remember the sheer amount of face-hurt that came with that meal. Geez. Onions.) That entire evening was super awesome. A beginning of a beautiful friendship, if you will.

You (and mysterious Obie) prove an excellent point, though, it's not just about the food, but the company in which it was shared.

Posted by: Ma'ayan on January 17, 2013 10:08 AM

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