In my college, we sign up for dinner by 2 p.m. on days we want to eat meals. (I have yet to eat lunch at my college; I know it's an entirely different crowd at lunchtime, so I'll have to check it out at some point.) There's a posted menu, so I consult it before I decide what to mark: H for "hot" or V for "vegetarian." I'm not a committed vegetarian. But I don't feel a great need to eat meat every day, or even many times a week, if there's a good vegetarian option on offer. Tonight's option was meant to be spinach frittata, which sounded delicious when I was signing up (after a heavy--but also delicious--beef dinner) on Tuesday.
But when I went in after the soup course to pick up my entree, Pat (who runs the kitchen with briskness and cheer) said, "He's getting yours right now." Trevor (who's the main chef on duty at night) was hard at work at a griddle at the back of the kitchen. After my dinner companions headed back to our table, I made conversation with Pat and Trevor while he continued doing whatever it was he was doing (I couldn't see). For one thing, I finally thought to ask Pat whether it's a problem that I'm sometimes a vegetarian and sometimes not. "I don't care," she said. "You can order whatever you want." "You can choose whatever you want," Trevor agreed. I told the story about getting stuck in the boot on Sunday, and Pat and I talked about the staggering array of brands at John Lewis (which, it turns out, is set to open a massive store in a new mall that will open in downtown Cambridge in about six weeks--who knew? it's all happening about half a block east of what have become my usual haunts and paths).
And then Trevor presented me with a gorgeous, fresh omelet made with fresh grilled vegetables.
As far as I can figure, I was the only person to put in for the vegetarian option, and so rather than make a whole frittata and have it go to waste, he just threw this omelet together when he saw me coming in to get my food.
Here is yet another of the many reasons I love my college. I know that this kind of attention is due in part to the fact that most people aren't here yet, and so I'm not expecting it to continue in quite this way, come October. But I love, beyond my expectation, how friendly everyone in this place has been. When I got locked out of the main college building last night in the aftermath of our Wednesday night Formal Hall fancy-dress dining event, it was actually the college president's wife who finally came to let me back in. It's just like that. People keep their eyes out for one another.
At dinner--before the omelet's grand revelation--I turned to my neighbor friend and said, "I could look this up, but I know you know the answer, so: what's the deal with the cows across the river from King's?"
"Well," he said, with a flourish that I have come to recognize as characteristic, "when Henry VI built the college in the fifteenth century, all of that land was commons, and people grazed their animals on it. And so he decreed that that part of the land would remain commons, and cows have grazed there ever since."
Yet another reason to love this place.
Tomorrow, if all goes well, I will acquire a mobile phone, which is such an expected part of one's personal arsenal here that I've actually been frowned on a couple of times (say, by my doctor's office) for not being able to provide a mobile number. If all goes very well, I may also ride out of the day on a bicycle rented for the year. I'm starting to feel a desire to get further afield faster than on foot.
It was this kind of day here today.