Dispatches at The Prospect are brief reflections from our writers that focus on their experiences during the summer break. This piece is part the Dispatch summer 2022 series.
Any English prose stylist worth their salt will agree the language’s German words are better than its Latin ones. An exception, though, is ‘company.’ It comes from the roots com and panis, ‘together’ and ‘bread.’ A companion — a related word — was literally a “bread fellow,” a friend who shared your dinner, with whom you broke your bread.
This summer, I’m living on campus and I’m the company manager for Princeton Summer Theater. I’m in charge of food and housing for a team of professional actors who put on three shows throughout the summer, each on a two-week run. (If you’re in town, come join us at Hamilton Murray Theater.)
When I first applied, the executive director of the theater called my position the “mom job.” It’s my job to take care of the cast, to make sure everyone is comfortable around long days and stressful rehearsals. The artistic director maestros everything in the theater; I make things run smoothly everywhere else.
Our cast, actors of all stripes from all over, has moved in — so my job, now, is mostly the food. I plan a menu for each week and shop for it (on a razor-thin budget, theater being as lucrative as it ever was). We rotate cooking shifts, like a co-op.
Julia Child said, “I was 32 when I started cooking; up until then, I just ate.” I just ate until a few weeks ago, when I started cooking and planning meals for the company. So far I’ve made eggs in purgatory, ratatouille, and stir-fried lettuce; other cast members have made noodles with kimchi, spaghetti carbonara, and mushroom tacos.
There are few better feelings than making good food for those you care about — only rivaled by reveling in the shared effort of eating together. Food tastes better if it was made with effort. Even if we screw up sometimes — undercook, overseason, everything in between — food made for and with friends always satisfies.
Through the summer, I’ll be playing some other bit roles in the company: I’m the assistant director of “Gatsby,” and I’ll be acting in our second show, “The Fox on the Fairway.” But my primary job — and the one I like the most — is the “mom job.” I manage the company; I direct the togetherness with bread. My bread fellows and I make theater, a company indeed.
Gabriel Robare is a Senior Writer for the Prospect, as well as the Head Puzzles Editor. He can be reached at email@example.com or on social @GabrielRobare.