Columbia College Women proves that post-graduation gatherings need not be restricted to class reunions at five-year intervals. On Sunday, a hodgepodge of Columbia men and women from the classes of ’77 through ’09 attended a more organic gathering at Hudson Square’s Mae Mae Café for the CCW event “Eating Locally, Thinking Globally.”
As expected, Mae Mae had the feel of an academic’s favorite nook—cozy dark wood, shelves filled with leather-bound books and bottles of red wine, and oddities like an inflated, Alice-in-Wonderland-sized, red lamp shade. A circular wrap-around bar was covered with stemware for the sparkling cider and the three Long Island wines, paired with the tasting menu of zucchini fritters, fried cod, beet with whipped blue cheese, and—the standout—mini apple tarts. The event’s $75 price tag may have been beyond the means of many students, but if the food was any indication, the money was put to good use. The goody bags, filled with everything from a Tarte lipstick to the book “Food Politics,” weren’t too shabby either.
CCW, committed to keeping Columbia women involved and connected since the school went co-ed in the ’80s, sponsors at least one big event every fall. On Sunday, most of the event’s approximately 30 attendees were CCW event veterans. A few came in small groups, but there was plenty of new mingling involved. The event’s casual four-speaker agenda left plenty of time in between to chat and snack.
Regular college conversation fodder—from “what was your major?” to “ooh, I love your skirt”—was still heard all around, but was interspersed with more serious topics related to the food industry. Ellen Gustafson, CC ’02, executive director and co-founder of the FEED Foundation, talked passionately on and off the mic about hunger and obesity being connected by malnourishment. Buying one of her FEED tote bags includes a donation for a starving child’s school lunch—FEED’s current tally is 56 million meals.
On the “Eating Local” topic, program manager at Slow Food USA Jerusha Klemperer, SOA ’00, said, “I don’t care what the environmental impacts are, that’s still up for debate. Eating local is about community, about building a local economy, about health, and taste.” It was an atypical local foods spiel, but a logical one.
She continued, “I’m not eating this because it’s lowering my carbon footprint. I’m eating it because it’s freaking delicious.”
Somewhat soggy fritters aside, the afternoon’s food spoke well to Klemperer’s statement. Most of the ingredients were raised at Katchkie Farm, a 60-acre, certified, organic operation upstate. Great Performances Catering—whose CEO is Liz Neumark, BC ’77, another speaker at the event—owns both Katchkie Farm and Mae Mae.
Although the event’s focus was food consciousness, socializing was the real key of the afternoon. Chair of CCW Claire Shanley, CC ’92, spread the word like any socially smart campus organization would—“We pelted emails out… Jerusha Tweeted about it.”
Cathleen Price, CC ’92, said of CCW events, “Some people use them for networking, other people use them to get out of the house.” Either way, seeing a room full of smartly dressed, happily chatting alums sipping chilled wine on a Sunday afternoon gives the impression that the real world post-Columbia isn’t so bad.