To begin the story at the beginning, read "Part 1: Post 1: Beginning Again," published in January, 2013. To consult a description of the campus, read "Part 1: Post 14: The Greening of Campus," published in March, 2013.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Year 3: Part 8: post 1: Food and Feasting

 This is part of a series of non-narrative posts, full of details about the school that haven't made it into the narrative. Story-telling will begin again at the end of the month.

Food was a big part of my experience at school, though there isn't any easy way to work that into the plot of the blog posts. I  didn't think about or talk about food much, and I was only very rarely involved in procuring or preparing it, but every day I ate food that came from our kitchens and so my sensory experience of the community was shaped by the distinct tastes of place and season.

Most of what we ate and drank came from campus itself and most of what didn't came from other farms nearby (the only major exceptions, by volume, were coffee, chocolate, oatmeal, and wheat flour). That meant there were some weird holes in our diets--no bananas, no oranges--but really we had more variety than most people do. For example, I grew up eating spinach and sometimes kale, but on campus "green leafy vegetable" could be spinach, kale, beet greens, turnip greens, lamb's quarters, purselane, sheep sorrel, or galansoga.  We grew five different kinds of mushroom in the Dining Hall basement and four more varieties above ground on the farm. We had no beef, but for meat we had lamb and mutton, goat, venison, chicken, turkey, and all the various pork products--plus rabbit, squirrel, fish, and groundhog, for those of us who had dinner with Charlie once a week.

The other major difference was that we had no refrigeration on campus. We preserved food with a combination of smoking, drying, and canning and we planned our meals so as to eat what was fresh when it was fresh. For example, every year we slaughtered a group of lambs and kids (goats). Sometimes we also slaughtered adult sheep and goats. But we never did all of that slaughter on the same day--that would have been too much meat to process at once. Instead, throughout the late summer and into the fall, one or two such animals would die every week and everyone who wanted some would get fresh meat for dinner. Whatever we didn't eat that day would be smoked.

Between our commitment to eating locally and our lack of refrigeration, our diets varied dramatically throughout the year so that not only did place taste like something, but so did time. 

The food on campus was consistently delicious. Even when I didn't happen to like something I could always tell it was well-made. Part of this particular magic came from our head chef, who is very good at what she does. Part of it was that everything was fresh and well-grown in good soil. Very few of our meals had much in the way of seasoning. They didn't need any.

So, here are a few sample menus for both ordinary meals and feats.


Always served communally, menu varied seasonally based on availability. In hot weather milk was processed into cheese or yogurt immediately so it wouldn't spoil, which is why we had no fresh milk on the table then.

From February until the weather got hot;

  • vegetarian miso soup
  • oatmeal (honey, nuts, dried fruit optional)
  • sheep's milk
  • eggs (various styles)
  • pork sausage or bacon
  • hot coffee
  • hot chocolate
  • herbal tea
In the summer:

  • vegetarian miso soup
  • granola
  • fresh fruit
  • eggs (various styles)
  • sheep or goat yogurt 
  • hot coffee
  • hot herbal tea
In the fall and early winter:

Similar to late winter until the animals stopped producing milk and egg production dropped off. Then the oatmeal would be replaced with bread and our own jam or jelly.


Lunch was similar throughout the year because we had a green house, but the greenhouse wasn't heated so there were limits to what it could grow. It was always served as a casual buffet, available any time between noon and four.

  • fresh squash or zucchini bread
  • fresh wheat bread (usually sourdough)
  • soup (usually vegetarian)
  • beans (various styles)
  • kale (or equivalent) and onions, steamed, with oil and vinegar
  • sheep's milk cheese (for sandwiches)
  • sometimes seed or nut butter or smoked meat (for sandwiches)
  • green salad (in the spring only)
  • sometimes leftovers from the previous dinner

Dinner varied too much for me to give a typical menu, but was usually vegetarian in the first half of the year and usually meat-dominated in the latter half. There was always something for vegetarians, though. 

Yes, we had dessert, but it wasn't always the same--pies or cakes or puddings or whatever else, in the flavors of the season. In the winter we drank hot chocolate or cider and in the summer we drank herbal sun tea, sorrel tea, or lemonade-berry tea.


Our holiday feasts varied slightly from year to year but each usually involved variations on the same foods. For example, Beltane's feast always involved a lot of strawberries, but that might be fruit salad one year and pie then next--or both! Alcohol of various kinds was usually served alongside whatever other beverages.

Brigid Feast

  • crackers
  • squash bread with butter or honey
  • cheeses
  • raisins and nuts
  • dried apples
  • dilly beans
  • jerky
  • sausage 
  • snow-cream
  • snow taffy
  • butterscotch
  • mint-flavored candy
  • Baked goods with hot-pepper jam

Ostara Feast

  • egg salad
  • potato salad (using up the last of the previous year's potatoes)
  • green salad
  • asparagus
  • ham and ramps (if available)
  • chocolate and home-made sugar candies

Beltane Feast

  • strawberries and rhubarb (many different ways)
  • green salad with lots of edible flowers
  • peas, mushrooms (many kinds!) and ramps
  • egg salad
  • spinach quiche 
  • spinach pie
  • Various breads and baked goods with cheese and honey and the last of the year's jam and jelly
  • baklava

Litha Feast

  • roast pork
  • grilled vegetables
  • grilled mushrooms
  • stuffed mushrooms
  • strawberries and rhubarb (many different ways)
  • steamed greens and onions
  • vegetarian chili
  • various breads
Lamas Feast
  • Stuffed squash
  • stuffed mushrooms
  • roasted vegetables
  • vegetarian chili
  • sweet corn
  • roast chicken (sometimes)
  • baked apples (sometimes in pies or cobblers, other times not)
  • fresh fruit (various kinds, sometimes in a salad, other times not)
  • deviled eggs
  • many different kinds of wheat bread
  • corn bread
  • zucchini bread
  • fresh, sliced tomatoes
  • usually there were tasting contests of different types of tomatoes or apples or honey or sometimes various vegetables. We'd vote on our favorites, and sometimes new varieties would be added to the farm that way.

Mabon Feast

  • various baked squashes
  • cole slaw
  • roast venison (or, some years, mutton)
  • apples and pears, various ways (including pies)
  • popcorn, some years (often candied in some way)
  • squash bread
  • corn bread (or corn pudding)
  • roast vegetables
  • baked beans
  • baked potatoes
 Samhain Feast

  • roast venison or mutton
  • apples (various ways)
  • Brussel's sprouts (usually roasted with onions)
  • Various baked goods
  • raisins and roasted pumpkin seeds
  • various nuts
  • pumpkin soup
  • cauliflower soup
  • baked beans
  • candies and chocolates

Yule Feast

  • roast pork or ham
  • baked beans (or sometimes black bean soup) 
  • roast acorn squash 
  • Brussel's sprouts or cabbage, various ways
  • mashed potatoes
  • mashed turnips 
  • baked macaroni and cheese
  • various breads, sweet rolls, and cookies
  • baked apples (pie or cobbler)
  • chocolate cake
  • plum pudding
  • chocolates and candies

And there you go.

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