Harvest Dinner Serves Up Success

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Leah Belber, Contributing Writer

The Harvy Din. Hyped up. Regaled as the best night of the Bates fall. I was instructed to film content for the Bates TikTok as well as write this review so I knew it must be big. As the hours of that Wednesday passed, leading up to the big moment, a thousand thoughts spun through my head. No way it’s as good as everyone says. The food is still from Commons, what magic have they been hiding? I had teachers discuss it in class! Multiple upperclassmen students told me to get excited for it. The food quality was raved about. Even Blind Tiger was optimistic, a rare sight. To quote my texts from 5pm with close friends, “ppl are j so sad that theyll love anything” and “no way its acc that good right”. 

But I am not writing the diss track article that I expected to be writing. Instead, it is one celebrating the evening that nearly brought me to tears. I had seen the tables moving around in the days leading up, wondering what the stage was for, but upon walking in around 5:22pm I was utterly shocked. The volume was astronomical. The ice sculptures weren’t melting. The room was filled to capacity even at my retirement-home-eating-hours. And there were charcuterie options. Needless to say, I was impressed by the ambiance. It is not every day that there are centerpieces on our beloved sticky tables, or wall decals or a live band playing while we eat! (The same delightful combo from parents weekend! That lady always kills it on the spoons.) I found a circle table upstairs, as far from the music and amps as possible, and yet still deafeningly loud. My smile grew as I saw families eating together side by side with groups of friends crowding chairs around a communal table. But I am a food reviewer and I will focus on just that.

The order of the serving tables and their set up was very conducive to a nice flow; the mad, messy dash I expected did not greet me. Instead, I peacefully served mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, squash, and many other items before topping my plate with a bread roll hat. I walked back upstairs via the treacherous route and dug in. The squash variety was heavily seasoned, but tasty. I found great textures in what I guessed were sweet potato, squash, parsnip, and potato. But this dish I recognized from vegan bar trips in the past: the vegan mashed potatoes (scary idea, I know) were not as bad as you might fear upon seeing their translucent quality, and were well-salted with some nice skins and bite to the potato. The wild-rice-pilaf-mushroom-bean-situation was tasty. The typical dried-out or slightly uncooked rice was not an issue and mixed with some cranberry sauce it was a very pleasant starch. As a person who lightly avoids mushrooms they were not overwhelming and added some nice umami. 

The cranberry sauce frightened me. While my family enjoys 4 separate kinds at Thanksgiving dinner, not one is the canned jello type. But as I served myself a small scoop I tried to get mostly the jammier section, and it was not nearly as bad as I feared. The flavor was still great and it served its perfect purpose. I took a few bites of the green bean casserole and it was a little underwhelming. The color of the bean was not ideal but it wasn’t awful. I have to admit I didn’t serve myself the eggplant but it looked saucy and vegetarian (likely meeting their goals of the dish). 

Now for the piece de resistance, the lobster mac and cheese. I had low hopes, I’ll be honest. There is a variety of mac and cheeses served at the pasta bar and not all of them are hits. But I think this was made with a bechamel (a roux of butter and flour and added milk) which made all the difference. The lobster chunks were small but added a nice seafood flavor to the dish – definitely not something to take another bite of after you’ve cleaned your palette but if you’re a seafood person then this shouldn’t phase you. The roll was stellar as predicted, especially with some Bates butter. The turkey appeared to be the same served at the Harvest Dinner Part 1: Parents Weekend Edition, which I recall as almost too moist but salty and edible. I didn’t try the roast sirloin or the soups (I know, I’ve failed as a food critic). But I also wasn’t going to serve myself something I didn’t want. Food waste matters, you guys! The cider donuts afterwards were what you would expect along with the usual clove-heavy pumpkin pie bars. I watched as many tried and failed at the Baked Alaska, but it was a fun and entertaining idea!

Now you might be thinking, why did Leah love this so much if the food was average? Because of the atmosphere and the vibes, you guys! People were swing dancing! Everyone gasped when the singer started in on Billy Joel! The speech from the DCCE staff was focused on how happy they were to be a part of our chosen family (that was what got me). All of us at Bates chose to come here and eat at Commons every day and form unbelievably strong connections and have moments of joy and sadness all over this campus. We are a chosen family. And whether or not you are looking forward to a family Thanksgiving, all are invited to revel in the simple yet boisterous joy of The Harvest Dinner.