A groupof Mathey freshmen enjoyed the last of the season’s locally grown tomatoes and Jersey corn for dinneron Thursday at the home of Master of Mathey College Harriet Flower, just one of many traditional freshman advisee group dinners taking place at residential college masters’ homes this month. While Flower hosts Mathey advisee groups for dinner every year, this year is the first that has featured locally grown food.
The locally sourced, seasonal menus arepart of a new Mathey pilot project called "Flavor Lab—A Sense of Place on the Plate," which collaborates with local organizations to make students aware of the food they eat.
Compared to food that was previously used in the catered dinners, the use of local food “tastes a lot better, and it’s also healthier just because it is fresher,” Flower said.
According to Flower, the Flavor Lab rose from a partnership between the Americana Diner and the newly formed nonprofit Princeton Center for Food Studies in nearby East Windsor, which was founded six months ago to raise awareness of sustainability and promote organic, local food.
The Center is a think tank that aims to promote awareness of the intersections between science, cuisine and sustainability, among other issues, and to shape public policy, Center chef Craig Shelton said. Shelton, who cooks the meals, said the Center wishes to change some agricultural practices to reverse thedamage that has been done to the environment and ultimately help people make healthier food choices.
Shelton captured the essence of the Center’s ideas in the slogan: “Filler is not food.”
The Flavor Lab is one of the group’sefforts to raise awareness and communicate the group’s ideas to the younger generation, he said.
“Our real hope is that students would want and welcome a dialogue with us,” Shelton said. “And we have ideas, but we’d love to hear from the students what they’d like.”
Hannah Yang ’17, who attended the dinner, said she appreciated the Flavor Lab because it did not rely on preservatives or excessive transportation for the production of its food.
Not only does the Flavor Lab further the Center’s goal of fostering communication about food and agriculture among various academic disciplines, but it also gives students a better sense of New Jersey's local agriculture, Flower explained.
“The idea is that it welcomes people. Obviously there are students from New Jersey, but there are also other people who are not from New Jersey,” she said.
The program is currently in its pilot phase and is only available to Mathey College.So far, the local menu has had a favorable reception.
“[The food] is good. I’m still eating it,” said Yang, as she grabbed another plate.