There is not any combination of words that could capture the beauty of Amherst, MA.
As I think about it now, I feel overwhelmed by a plethora of sights, sounds, smells, feelings, and most importantly, tastes.
Amherst was the place where I rarely felt intimidated by my own appetite of any sort, whether it be food, men or feeling. In fact, I embraced my appetites in Amherst.
I consider Amherst to be my first home. I never felt at home in Littleton for reasons I have exhaustively recounted in this blog. Before attending UMass as a freshman at the age of 20, I had experienced a failed attempt at dorm life at the University of Hartford. On that hot move-in day in September of 2000, I was terrified that this experience would be the same. But, to my utter joy, it could not have been more different.
My love affair with life began in Amherst. And humorously enough, it might have started at the Franklin Dining Commons. My floormates (with whom I got along famously well) and I would trudge down Orchard Hill to the dining commons at 6 every night, and we often met in between classes for lunch. The best thing about it was that there was a huge selection of everything. Salad bars, wrap stations, cheeseburgers, tofu, ice cream cones…I was in heaven. My favorite Franklin DC meal was a salad drenched in Caesar dressing with chicken and sesame noodles piled onto it. And much like other recovereds, I learned to eat by watching my friends eat. I followed Kerry to the dessert tray every night. I learned to try weird combinations of things from my roommate Ashley. And I grabbed a muffin for a mid-morning snack after watching my friend Scott do so after finishing a Psych 100 class. It was a beautiful time for me and my appetite.
You might wonder why it was so easy for me to eat there, as opposed to Littleton or Boston. Anyone who has lived there knows there’s a simple organic quality to the Valley; there, one can’t help but shed their usual materialistic needs and just pay attention to and abide by their gut feelings. Also, in addition to leaving some trauma behind in Littleton, I was independent for the first time. I was actually living life the way I wanted to live it and was making choices for myself instead of having them made for me. I couldn’t have felt healthier.
This, of course, is not without error. There was the brilliant time halfway through Junior year when I decided it would be a smart move to eat only Slimfast bars for meals. And, after I got into a relationship I manipulated from the start, I started to seesaw with food. The level of comfort I’ve had with food has always been directly related to the healthiness of my life choices.
One of my best memories lies in the Field dorm. My friend Brian lived next door to Ashley and I; there was many a day when Brian would convince Kerry, Christina, Jenny and I to forgo our homework and watch a movie instead. Brian had a constant supply of peppermint patties on hand, and he would feed us them until we were sick. We would stick the wrappers in the springs of the bunked mattress above us, and would giggle and eat and quote our favorite lines from the movies. I couldn’t have been happier.
I think my appetite worked for me then because the amount I took in was equal to the amount I gave out; I was always moving. At UMass Amherst, it can take up to 25 minutes to walk to a class. In addition to that, there were hiking and bike trails nearby, and sets to move during a theater guild strike. I was always eating, but I was always in motion.
My food-related love affair moved off-campus as I did. After moving in with Jen and Franny, I became accustomed to ordering a dozen of Sugar Jones cookies regularly (delivered right to your door with a gallon of milk). I was a regular at Antonio’s, and quickly discovered that the quesadilla pizza was my favorite. After dancing the night away at the local drag bar with theater friends, we would order a Concorde of wings with crispy French fries. The next morning we would order the blueberry corn bread from Rooster’s, and later on we’d chat over coffee and a cookie at Rao’s after visiting Mike behind the register. On dates with my fiancée and then boyfriend, I would request that we go to the Amherst Brewing Company so I could get the apple-chutney burger, and the fried Oreo sundae afterwards. In between classes, I would stop at Pasta Y Basta and partake in their amazing garlic bread. On the day I voted for Gore, I had a burrito brimming with rice and beans from Bueno Y Sano. I could literally go on for paragraphs about the pepperoni calzones, Japanese food, and soup I guiltlessly devoured there.
Although I have had successes with my struggle since then, none have felt like the success I had there.
And I unabashedly miss it so much.
(Image provided by mtctickets.com)