Pub Cookies, Parkas, and Java-Oh My! What Makes SLU Special
I’m a big baker. I grew up watching my mom in the kitchen rolling out pie dough, stirring sauces over the stove, and frosting cakes, all while the house filled with the heavenly aroma of scents like molasses, cooked peaches, or cinnamon. There came a point, right around high school, where my mom started to show me the tricks of the trade. Many of the treats we’d make came from a book of recipes – all hand-written by my grandmother and passed down to my mother.
The blue lines on the index cards are faded, some of the corners have little rips, and many of them have stains – spills from throughout the years as they sat on various countertops. There are a few with changed measurements or directions edited, as my grandmother discovered little things to correct as she baked. I like the way they show their age. They’ve been passed down throughout our family, preserving the original and hand-crafted delicacies of my grandmother and beyond.
The reason I share this little anecdote is because when I started baking, following those recipe cards precisely – right down to the very last pinch of salt – until I found what made them special. I’ve had the same kind of discovery throughout my four years here at St. Lawrence. The recipe of St. Lawrence is a unique one. From the outside, St. Lawrence might seem like just another small liberal arts college in the Northeast, but it’s not until you step on this campus that you realize what makes it different.
After my first tour at St. Lawrence during my senior year of high school, my tour guide, who I later became very good friends with once I was at SLU, handed me a chocolate chip cookie the size of my hand and said, “This is one of the best things you’ll ever taste.” It was a Pub Cookie. I took a bite of it on my car ride home and the gooey-chocolate melted in my mouth. I still have a picture of myself from that day, holding the cookie in front of my face, one big bite removed, with the biggest smile. When I eat a Pub Cookie today I’m brought back to that moment – to the first time I tasted SLU and knew it was the place for me.
One of the main questions I’m asked by prospective students is about the winters here at St. Lawrence. I can almost hear the shiver in their voice as they hesitantly ask the question, but my answer is always the same. When our campus is blanketed in snow, it’s absolutely beautiful. At my brother’s graduation from St. Lawrence in 2014, I was sixteen at the time and I distinctly remember what one of the commencement speakers said: “If you can survive a winter in the North Country, you can survive anything.” There’s something binding about our winters here. As we all layer our clothes, unpack our parkas, lace up our boots, and bundle up in hats and gloves, we tackle the storm together.
Some of the best nights I’ve spent at SLU have been in the Java Barn – our music venue on campus that is run by the Java Theme House (and is one of the only student-run music venues in the country!). My first time there I remember looking around the garage of a place. The walls painted with a kaleidoscope of shapes and colors ranging from neon pink to green to blue to yellow. Some kids lined up front and center of the stage, so close to the band they could see the sweat dripping down their face under the lights, while others stayed more toward the back corner where you can find the snacks. Outside people were chatting, laughing, and dancing. It felt natural, intimate, full of energy, and simply a darn good time.
These are only some of the ingredients that make SLU special. When I started baking, I found that it was the little things, like a splash of vanilla or the amount of time the butter softened, that took a good dessert and made it into an unforgettable one. It’s the same here at St. Lawrence.
The reason I love baking using our family recipes is because they connect generations – they’re a mode through which traditions can be kept and feelings can be reproduced through time. SLU is special because the people here cherish our recipe. They add their own unique spice, but at the root of our recipe is a community of people who love St. Lawrence. And it's love, right? Love is always the secret ingredient.