I think late summer--Kit would say it's early fall--is the best time to eat here on campus.
Of course, the food here is pretty much always good, so I have a sneaking suspicion that I'd say the same at any other time of year. But now is now, and so I am saying that now is the best time to eat.
The farm is in full production, so everything is fresh. Of course, everything has to be fresh, since they're saving the preserved foods for the winter. It's true there are some foods we don't get anymore because their season is past--strawberries and rhubarb and fiddleheads are all gone--and it's also true that some crops aren't in yet. There are no Brussels sprouts, no cabbage. But we do have fruit, we do have hearty vegetables, and we have plenty of dairy and eggs.
We have no meat. Campus is completely vegetarian at the moment, except at Paleolithic Dinner, where we often have woodchucks, and Philosopher's Stone Soup, where Rick usually brings squirrel, rabbit, or fish. But even if I didn't go to those events, I don't think I'd miss meat much. I tend not to miss the foods of different seasons--not until the end of a season, when I'm ready for a change.
But anyway, everything is startlingly good. Last night for dinner there was steamed rainbow chard, pan-fried green beans with onions, and zucchini bread drizzled with honey from our own bees. There was butter, too, but honestly I didn't use any. I didn't need any. I'm not kidding, it needed nothing. A week ago there was sweet corn for dinner (plus a green salad with sliced cherry tomatoes and goat cheese). We don't get sweet corn very often--there isn't a lot of it planted--so that was a treat, but there were some leftovers anyway. The following day, at lunch, that leftover corn turned up in a wild mushroom chowder. I mean both the mushrooms and the chowder as a whole were wild.
The apples are coming in now. The raspberries are done, but we still have a few of the blueberry bushes producing and the blackberries are going strong. The pears are ripening, too. We don't have as many of them as apples, only two rows in the orchard, two varieties. Pears are ripe so briefly that there is a special rule about them; if you want them you have to take them from the fruit bowl before they're ripe and let them ripen in your room. When they find ripe pears in the bowl the kitchen staff calls out "ripe pears!" and if no one claims them they eat the pears themselves, cook with them, or preserve them. The general attitude around here is that to let a pear go bad is the equivalent of a venial sin. I can't say I disagree.
I go home, sometimes, and my mother offers to feed me exotic, unseasonal food--bananas, lemonade with real lemons (as opposed to sumac berries or wood sorrel leaves), fresh strawberries, lamb (lamb is unseasonal because the spring lambs aren't at slaughter weight yet) and so on. She thinks I'm being deprived on campus and must want a break. My mother is a good cook and I enjoy the food, but the ingredients she has to work with are not so fresh and a lot of it was never very good to start with. Most of what you find in the store is from varieties--of both plants and animals--bred for durability and rapid growth, not flavor. I eat politely, enjoy it about as much as I ever did, which is to say a lot, and I look forward to getting back where I enjoy food more than I ever thought I could.