April 21, 2004: From the Editor

These 1890s eating-club members seem to have enjoyed their meal, but Princetonians have long complained about the food. (Princeton University Archives)

Editing this issue, I recalled my first journalism job – as an intern at Good Housekeeping magazine in New York. Had the internship organizers ever seen my bedroom or tasted my cooking, they would have realized that this was a very poor match. But they did not, and so I spent the summer tasting casseroles, cookies, and quiches, and writing and editing blurbs about dishes I could neither prepare nor adequately describe.

When Brett Tomlinson proposed a story on the cuisine of Princeton, however, it seemed like a natural. In addition to being a talented writer, Tomlinson, a PAW associate editor, is a great cook who makes his own peppermint ice cream. To research the story, which appears in this issue, Tomlinson visited kitchens and dining rooms across the campus, sampling food and taking notes at each stop. At the Frist Campus Center, he tried pizza and sandwiches. At Quadrangle Club, he ate steak, fried calamari, and salad. At the Brown Co-op, he dined on a lamb dish served with a puree of nuts, a mixed-green salad with pine nuts and vegetables, and crepes with fruit, Nutella and honey – a meal that took the student chefs two hours to prepare. All of it was better than the meals of breaded chicken-patty sandwiches, beer-battered fried cauliflower, and iceberg-and-tomato salad that Tomlinson consumed in his own college days.

These days, the University serves about 2 million meals per year. And as they have since the earliest days, Princetonians still complain about them. But reviews are improving. Since he arrived on campus 12 years ago, Stu Orefice, the genial, food-loving director of dining services, has reorganized dining halls, replacing the traditional snake-lines with stations that grill and sauté to order. In the 1990s, he brought in more variety: things like wraps, specialty salad bars, and vegetarian dishes; more recently, he has overseen the opening of the food court in the Frist Campus Center (where the Mongolian barbecue joins more traditional deli, grill, and pizza stands), and introduced low-carb options, organic cereals, soy and rice milk, and black-bean burgers.

We also report on a Princeton food connection in another part of the world. Steven Kaplan ’63 hails from Brooklyn, but now spends half the year in Paris, where he has a unique role: He is an American who tells the French what to eat. This spring, he is releasing the first guide to traditional baguettes in French bakeries. His research required him to sample baguettes from more than half of the 1,200-plus small bakeries in Paris. (The Independent newspaper of London reports that Kaplan remains trim.) Kaplan is a connoisseur of the traditional, prewar baguette, not the standard white baguette that the French have been eating for the last 60 years. He is one of several bread enthusiasts who helped revive traditional French bread, leading the French government to honor him for his contributions to national culture. PAW freelancer Beth Saulnier reports that Kaplan gave his lowdown on great bread in English, but with a hearty French accent.


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