Our Norwegian college, Jonas Zackrisson Torp, describes the unique annual welcome procedure at a University for food lovers, protectors, and possibly future producers. A cheers to Food, a cheers to getting together and reminding ourselves of the values of a good meal.
By Jonas Zackrisson Torp
Jun 19, 2015
What makes 400 students unite on one single occasion? Spending an entire day together. Exploring the city, cooking together, drinking together, then bringing all the food to a public square were two long dining tables are waiting for them. White tablecloths, sustainable plastic cutlery and endless bottles of wine.
What is the reason that 400 students take a seat around these two long tables, pour wine into the glasses, never your own glass first, and then share all the different dishes students from all over the world have been cooking the whole day?
The first week for the newly arrived first-year students is completed with a truly unique event. Something with an atmosphere which only exists here in the small town of Bra, Piedmont, Italy. When us students of UNISG arrange this annual event, we are talking about a rush, ‘a high-like sensation’ which you can only obtain this evening in this city. It is the annual UNISG EAT-IN. 400 people hammer their fists on the table as a grand salute for food.
How were you welcomed as freshmen at your first year of University or College? I can only compare it to my home country, Norway. Where we have a full week of dressing up in different costumes, acting like drunk fools on the street for the whole day and night.
At the University of Gastronomic Sciences the welcoming celebrations are very different, here we do it with an EAT-IN! A full day celebration, a day that I would never exchange for anything else, no matter how big the toga party in Oslo is. I will now try my best to help you understand this utterly beautiful event.
The new students are told that we will start nine in the morning, but we older students have realized that we are in Italy, and we will start later. As we thought, the Mayor of the city is late for her welcoming speech. We start at ten. Eighty-five new students stand in groups in a piazza in the middle of the city. Thirty internationals and the rest from all over Italy.
New and old students are divided into small groups. We are supposed to show them the most important sites around the city and they ask us whatever they want to know. We initiate our morning with organic espresso in one of the better bars. Then we are having a tour in the nice bakery. On the way to the bakery we buy some Salsiccia di Bra, raw sausage. We taste freshly made bread out of the oven, it makes a good breakfast together with the sausage.
Then we go to the only place who sells ice cream of goat milk, ridiculously tasty. Then we are visiting the man who sells coffee, chocolate, nuts, spontaneous fermented beers, amphora wine from Georgia, and jelly beans and salty licorice. Actually, he has everything, and he knows everything. He makes us taste everything, and he talks about everything.
After the new students have had their lunch, sponsored by the city, we go to the market. The local one with only local producers. The plums are still good. The fennel is amazing. The tomatoes are big and juicy now in the end of their season. (YES, we follow seasons). Aaaah, we cannot forget the cheese shop. Quickly entering to buy some mascarpone, we stay there to taste 10 different cheeses.
We have close to three hours to go. We are opening some bottles of wine and some beers. We are cooking. Five new and three older students in the kitchen. Earlier in the morning, we drew notes from a hat with a description of what to cook. Two salads, focaccia and a dessert. The result was pretty good. Potato salad with homemade mayonnaise and purple potatoes. A green salad with fresh ingredients from the marked. With these vegetables, the salad makes itself. We make focaccia and a variation of French toast using a recipe from my classmate who had a stage at NOMA.
The EAT-IN starts at 20.30. We arrive at nine. Siamo in Italia. Some are already here and others are coming. Food is delivered and we find places to sit. We introduce ourselves to the people around us and we start pouring wine. We eat. We take some food and we pass each tray further down the table. Everyone is sharing what we all have been cooking the whole day. More wine. More food. Someone in the third year climbs on top of the table. He wants to salute the people who made this night possible. 400 people hammer the table with their hands, shouting SALUTE!
When we are finished eating, most of us are going to the house outside the city. The house with the student garden, the house with the big courtyard. The house where 200 bottles of wine are waiting, which we have delivered there during the day as our entering ticket. It is the house where we dance, drink and get to know each other. Where we smile until the sun is on the horizon.
I look around. The new students do not understand it. I do not understand it. But I know that what we have experienced this day is beyond explanation. It is indescribable. It has its own ‘high’. A high that only exists in Bra. The one time a year when we arrange our EAT-IN.
400 people. 66 nationalities. Eat!
Photos: Jorge A. Mendez