Freshman Feast: Home Away From Home
Homesickness is beginning to make its rounds among the freshmen. We are standing between “wow, college: this is crazy and awesome and new” and “wow, college: this is my home, and I love it here,” but making the transition from one to the other can get a bit rocky.
Now, it is my firm belief that food makes a place homey. A wonderful meal can help you settle in, as well as create interesting table conversation and foster social bonds. Specific foods are some of the things you remember most strongly from home—a meal you have for special occasions, a snack that’s on hand at all times, or a favorite dessert. Personally, I miss late night Pinkberry trips; nothing compares to frozen yogurt when you are only halfway done with your homework and the sun will be rising far too soon.
Be that as it may, I also believe it is entirely possible to bring the foods you love from home to your kitchen here. There is nothing people like more than snagging some of whatever you are cooking, so if you can stand to share, cooking your favorite dishes can bring everyone closer together.
In my opinion, baking is the fastest way to make someone feel at home, as most of us have the strongest associations with the sweetest of foods. Nothing feels better than rolling up your sleeves, plunging your hands into a bowl of flour, and taking matters of food—specifically dessert—into your own sugar-coated hands.
I decided to make carrot cake—something I have never done before—since I have the best associations with it. In high school, at this time of year I would be making almost-weekly trips to Lloyd’s Carrot Cake in New York City after cross country meets with my team. The scent of freshly baked cake would waft through the air, our mouths would begin to water as we waited in line, and we would scarf our rewards as though we had not eaten in months.
This carrot cake recipe comes courtesy of the one and only Paula Deen, with slight adaptations. I cut some of the sugar and oil, and I increased the amount of cinnamon. Having no experience baking carrot cake, I otherwise stayed fairly true to the recipe, though next time I would consider adding allspice and vanilla to give more potency to the flavor. The only trouble I ran into was my lack of a grater for the carrots, but I made do with the serrated edge of a plastic knife, getting a very respectable workout for my hands in the process.
This is a fun and easy dessert that will leave your kitchen (and the rest of the hallway) smelling wonderful and cozy. Enjoy!
Makes 8 pieces of cake
1/2 cup flour
1/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup olive oil
3/4 cup grated carrots
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Mix the flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, and salt into a medium-sized bowl.
Whisk in the egg, olive oil, and vanilla.
Stir in the carrots.
Lightly oil and flour nine-inch round baking pan (any pan of similar size will do) and line the bottom with parchment paper.
Bake for approximately 30 minutes, until the top is crispy and a fork can be removed cleanly from the cake.
Allow to cool, then cut and serve. Feel free to top with your favorite icing, ice cream, or fruit!