Column: What food means to me


Photo credit: Anna Allgeyer

I’ve been making pies ever since I was a kid, but they’ve really become part of my Archer identity. Here is the preparation for a pie I made for the Pi Day bake sale.

I think most people would agree that they love food.  Most Archer girls, in particular, have an affinity for advisory food, courtyard picnics and going across to pick up a quick bite across the street.  (Hint: your answer to the “what do I get?” question can always be solved by a Belwood Walnut Twist.) Maybe I’m just hungry, but as I prepare to graduate Archer, many of my memories here seem attached to food.

From the “mystery snack” clementines and veggie sticks of sixth grade advisories, all the way up until the last minute challah for my senior year advisory — so much community has been built through food over my time at Archer.  

I can distinctly remember the time my sixth grade advisor brought in smoothies and only told us after we drank them that they were filled with spinach. I remember the marble cake from sixth grade fall outing, and how we ate it right before the rain started to fall.  I remember the canyon landscape and its warm red sunrise on our cheesy bagels in seventh grade and the fiestas packed with manchego, ceviche, pupusas and gazpacho throughout my Spanish classes here.

Food memories are powerful.  It’s not just the taste of the dish, but it’s the person who made it for you — or the memory of making it with friends or enjoying it with loved ones. 

Neurologist and psychologist Hadley Bergstrom explained in an interview with the Huffington Post that “taste memories tend to be the strongest of associative memories that you can make” — something that completed resonated with me not just as a food lover, but just as a person.  That attachment we all feel to childhood food memories is something I’ve created with Archer memories and something that I’m a little afraid of not being able to share with others when I leave.  

But I know that the memories I have are incredibly strong, and I know that other Archer girls feel them, too.  I included some of my favorite Archer memories/recipes for you to indulge a little bit into and try out if you want.  We’re not known as “The Archer School for Food for nothing, and I’m extremely grateful for the love of food Archer has instilled in me.

Fried Plantains a la “you tried really hard” in 7th grade Spanish class

In preparation for a Spanish fiesta in middle school, I signed up to bring fried plantains, not knowing the true implication of my decision until after I made it.  

Cut to me later that night frantically searching through Ralphs to find plantains, not bananas, and booking it to my godmother’s home to learn from her.

The next day I showed up to school with some soggy, fried the night before plantains that everyone claimed were delicious. But I knew the truth. They were amazing the night before, and it was almost a little secret about how good they actually could be.

Ingredients and Recipe:

  • 2 overly ripe plantains
  • 2 cups of vegetable oil, for frying
  • Finishing salt

Heat your cooking oil to around 325 degrees, and place sliced plantains — about 1/2 an inch thick — in an even layer. Fry on both sides until dark golden brown.  Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to drain, and season immediately with salt.

Squash and Caramelized Onion Galette

I adapted this recipe from my favorite cooking website, Smitten Kitchen, for a dinner party I held Halloween of my sophomore year at Archer. I had around eight people coming over, and I had never cooked such a big meal alone for so many people.  So, being me, I decided to make a complicated menu with a bread pudding and oven fries. The crowning jewel was a recipe I had never made before, a squash galette. Packed with fall flavor, melty fontina and yet… not a recipe to make within severe time constraints.

Photo by Anna Allgeyer
An aquaponic setup from a recent farm field trip we took in our science class. Not only has Archer instilled in me a love of food and cooking, but a passion for where food comes from.

I was so stressed I forgot to let the filling cool before adding it to the galette shell, causing my dough to essentially melt.  I ended up doing it over, but my guests said they had never tasted anything quite like it. 

Ingredients and Recipe: 

  • 1 recipe Pâte Brisée (recipe is the same as in my Life of Pie column, the sugar is optional)
  • 1 pound 1/2 inch cubed butternut squash
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 large onions sliced into paper thin moons
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup shredded fontina cheese
  • Pinch of cayenne
  • Pinch of sugar
  • (optional) 2 teaspoons of chopped sage

Roast your squash cubes for 30 minutes with the olive oil at 400 degrees.  Meanwhile, melt your butter in a heavy-bottomed skillet with a pinch of both salt and sugar until caramelized, about 30 minutes. Stir together the squash, onions, cheese, cayenne and sage in a large bowl.  Roll out your dough to a 13 inch round, and transfer to a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Spread the mixture in the center, leaving a two inch border. Loosely fold the edges of the dough over the filling to create a rustic looking tart.  Bake for 40 minutes at 400 degrees, until the crust becomes golden brown and the cheese is bubbling. Let rest at least 10 minutes before serving, and enjoy.