I used to equate food with community: large group potlucks, collaborative procrastination, weekend parties, and meals with floormates. We’d eat banana bread, curry, apple crisp, butter cookies, beans and rice, bread pudding, waffles, and all kinds of soups. With the exception of the boxed mac-n-cheese that we’d spike with any combination of real cheese, beans, curry powder, oregano, cayenne pepper, and salsa, almost everything we ate together was homemade and delicious.
After leaving college, I lost my faith in food. Now, food is what I ingest alone, usually, when I’m hungry, bored, or tired from working fifty hours a week. Food comes from boxes and cans and bags directly to my plate, occasionally with a detour through the microwave or toaster. Eating is no longer a community experience, and food isn’t homemade or nearly as delicious as what I ate in college.
Last weekend, I caught a glimpse of what dining should be.
It was my mom’s birthday, so she, my dad, and I went out to dinner at The Bachelor Farmer, a restaurant in the up-and-coming North Loop section of downtown Minneapolis. We sat at a half-booth, my parents on the bench and I on a chair. Tan shades that looked somehow both industrial and organic covered bare light bulbs above us, and lamps were set on section dividers. The wallpaper was white with a blue, Nordic pattern on it. The waitresses seemed to have agreed on a tacit hipster dress code and wore long skirts, Levis, boots, and hair in high buns or in lazy waves down their backs. The restaurant was quiet at 5:30 on a Sunday, but as the sun sank and the hostesses seated more parties, the diners created a dull roar with their conversations.
We had three options for dinner: the meat of the day, the perpetual chicken offering, and the vegetarian option. My parents chose the meat, and I went veg, as usual.
Our first course was the same, a pureed white soup not at all like the dreaded white soup that English gentility had to choke down during dinner parties of the 19th century. The base was simple: water, cauliflower, and garlic with fine flecks of Parmesan mixed in. A red-pepper coulis that tasted slightly spicy and almost pickled floated in the center.
My parents were served family style. Their steak strips (brown outside turning to red in the middle) and matchsticked root vegetables looked fine, but I didn’t pay too much attention to their food because my second course of poached eggs on a bed of greens was spectacular. The yolks from the two eggs combined perfectly with the tangy, acidic kale and broccoli. I was so enamored by my yellow, white, and green combination that I skipped on the honey bread that was baked in-house, which my dad said tasted like Pillsbury rolls anyhow.
Unfortunately for me, I have been cursed with the blight of not liking cheesecake, which meant the third course wasn’t my favorite. Dessert was served in little jars. I thought I wouldn’t like the meringue on top due to my run-ins with sponge-y, flavorless meringue at Perkin’s, but it was fluffy, like whipped cream with slightly more substance. The thin layer of sweet chocolate pound cake crumbles beneath the meringue was good, too, especially combined with bitter decaf coffee. Beneath the chocolate, though, was a nasty butternut squash cheesecake layer. By nasty, I mean very high quality but repulsive to me due to my defective taste buds. I abandoned the cheesecake layer after two small bites and, sadly, couldn’t reach the second chocolate pound cake layer on the bottom because of the cheesecake obstruction.
All of the dishes and glassware were simple. The pairings of tastes and textures seemed so easy, as if any dolt with a skillet could throw the dishes together. (Ah, what an illusion.) The bags of little almond cakes—slightly smaller than mini-muffins and packaged in groups of two—that they gave us on the way out were also simple and perfect: soft and chewy, yet covered in a thin veneer of crunch.
Anyone on a strict college budget would consider the bill obscene, but eating at The Bachelor Farmer reminded me of my college days, when the food was made with love and care (or procrastination), and everyone looked forward to eating together. If you happen to be in Minneapolis, do yourself a favor and find the means and the company to eat at The Bachelor Farmer.
Libby Stille (’13) lives in St. Paul and works in the marketing department of a children’s publishing company in downtown Minneapolis. She recommends that everyone visit the Twin Cities, but only between June and October, unless you enjoy subzero windchills and slipping on ice.