by Celeste Berg ’13
Although I eagerly anticipate Log Lunch for the entire preceding week, I don’t have any tangible involvement with the tasty and intellectually stimulating event until consumption begins. For those who produce the quality eats, however, preparation for the next feast begins scarcely after the prior one’s conclusion. This is not a task done by college employees – a group of students plan, cook, and clean up the meal. Early in the week, co-head cook Susannah Emerson ’12 decides on the menu and converts the recipe measurements to suitable scale – the lunch must feed roughly 100 people! Lucy Rollins ’12, the other co-head cook, then contacts local farmers and orders the necessary produce – every week, the welcoming chalkboard proclaims the contribution of Peace Valley Farm, or Mighty Food Farm, to the tantalizing lunch spread. On the big day, the head cooks, accompanied by two helpers, arrive at the Log by 6:00 a.m. Vegetable chopping and bread making occupy the early hours, and as lunchtime approaches, the cooks begin seasoning, sampling, and setting up for the imminent crowd. The cooks I spoke with all relish the kitchen camaraderie, and describe the pleasure of preparing delicious and local food for the attendees as their favorite aspect of the job.
Every Friday at noon, students, professors, and community members gather in the Log for a student prepared lunch and an environmental discussion, a tradition that extends back to 1972. The Log is a charming Spring Street building; the wood paneled interior and the dated class flags hanging on the walls give the space a cozy, old-fashioned ambiance. A few key characteristics define the rustic experience, and regular attendees such as myself revel in the expectation of a home cooked spread and an engaging speaker. First, the menu always boasts a vegetarian meal comprised of a soup, salad, bread, and dessert. Oftentimes, the meal components are linked via a culinary theme or the seasonal bounty of the surrounding food system. While fortunate diners wait their turn before the abundant spread, an old fashioned chalkboard with crafty phrases describing the week’s menu builds further anticipation.
Plates filled, we make our way into the open dining room, in which long, rectangular tables promote lunchtime discussion. Although it’s a daunting challenge to describe any given array, I’ll encapsulate a typical feast by describing selections from a few of my favorite meals. Any rendition of butternut squash soup drives me into a frenzy of excitement, and thus my taste buds spent much of the fall basking in the flavor and texture of this delicious root vegetable. I particularly enjoyed the version with peanuts and red chili pepper flakes, a creamy, ultra smooth puree with a subtle, lasting kick, and the fennel and squash soup, listed above – the vibrant, silky liquid presented a complex assortment of sweet and savory flavors. The bread is always luscious and doughy on the interior, yet the crusts are a little more substantial, satisfyingly crunchy and perfect for saturating with the tasty soup. Oftentimes, this component contains a secondary flavor or texture, and I’m always partial to the inclusion of raisins or cranberries. The salad embodies utmost freshness with its tender lettuce leaves and crunchy components – versions have featured colorful root vegetables, lightly baked apples, and constituents indicative of southwester cuisine. The Lunch’s sustainable endorsement ensures that most of the ingredients come from local suppliers – produce often comes from Peace Valley or Might Food Farm, and Gammelgarden Creamery has provided dairy products in the past. (I have so many pictures I couldn’t choose just one – please select!) Finally, a decadent dessert is passed around on large metal trays during the talk’s beginning stages. Tantalizingly moist wedges of beet chocolate cake, and decadent triangles of cinnamon chai shortbread are a few of my favorite selections.
A talk about some environmental topic always follows the lunch. Speakers come from diverse backgrounds: some are students or professors of the college, while others are outside experts from local, national, or international organizations. For instance, last semester’s crowd saw Michael Blanding, author of The Coke Machine: The Dirty Truth Behind the World’s Favorite Soft Drink, present about Coca-Cola’s water ways in India. Visiting Williams College professor Greg White, a specialist in international environmental studies, spoke about climate migration in the North Atlantic, and students such as Seattle resident Andrea Lindsay ’13 have shared their experiences working with food and community organizations over the summer. Speakers Murray Fisher, founder and program director of the New York Harbor School, and Laurie Schoeman, director of the New York Sun Works, displayed their involvement with certain aspects of environmental change; respectively, they have worked on promoting activism in the next generation, and raising awareness for urban agriculture. Regardless of the week’s menu selection and the speaker’s specific identity, I always leave the Log feeling satiated with wholesome, delectable food, and the promise of a local and global push toward further realms of sustainability. Luckily, it’s Friday – only two hours until Log Lunch begins, and I’ll admit I’m already counting down the minutes…
[Maybe we could include this? If not, it’s okay too!]
Entries of each individual Log Lunch can be found on my personal food blog, celeste-berg.blogspot.com