Thursday, April 30, 2009

Notes From A College Tour (Part 1)

So here I am, at the aforementioned coffeeshop, writing on my laptop like any other coffeeshop patron. ^__^ And why yes there is a cappuccino nearby.

I'm not sure the following anecdotes will be organized by anything except the order in which they come out of my head, but we'll all do our best to follow along.

Notes From A College Tour.

(Editor's Note: This appears to be Part 1: The Food. Go figure.)

1. If you pay close enough attention to these little stories, you will be able to figure out my (non-Blue) identity. If you were on this particular campus, you might have figured it out already. I can't go ten feet without seeing my name in print. To put it in the vaguest terms possible, I'm here for an event at which I am also one of the honorees--and there are posters advertising this event, with my name in prominence, at every turn.

2. At the same time, five years out of undergrad, I'm safely assured of my own anonymity. I'm good at blending in, and I don't look much like the person I was in 2004. The people I've gone to meet have had to look twice before figuring out who I was.

3. The biggest difference--or psychological difference--is the way everything feels smaller. In two ways. When I was a student, the university town was twice as big as my hometown. (It had a movie theatre! With four screens!) After living in DC, it seems tiny. More interestingly, everything seems smaller now that the price factor is no longer aspirational. This is a town where the highest-priced entree at the nicest restaurant is $15. It's almost laughable--and, in the case of my frugality, delightful.

4. This makes it very easy for me to take the Proust Tour, as it were; to go into all the restaurants I used to frequent (on special occasions) and into the ones I aspired to frequent and--in the case of the former--see if the food tastes the same. Consider the Magical Sandwich Shop, which I will not name because it is the only one of its kind and thus easily googled, but which is known for doing a particular thing to its sandwiches which involves a special pressing kind of machine and lots of cheese. Today I had a Magical Sandwich which, as far as I could tell, tasted familiar but lots less magical. I think it was because it's much less appealing to eat something which contains five layers of cheese and one layer of mayonnaise.

5. What does surprise me is that all of the restaurants, which are all locally-owned (sure, there are fast food chains here too, but I'm not going to bother with that), still have the exact same menus that they did five years ago. I think I was expecting, on some level, a reflection of the way food has changed in the last five years--and don't tell me it hasn't! We are in a post-Pollan world, after all. Shouldn't the corner bistro with its six female-named sandwiches (the Dinah, the Paula, etc.) have added a seventh sandwich (say, the Barbara) made with all-local ingredients?

Have to go now, for a... um... thing... will catch up later with more notes and better stories. (There are actual stories coming, not just descriptions of restaurants!)

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