Blog Column: 

When my mom and I first visited UMass in February of my senior year of high school, we were...less than impressed. 

It was the last two days of our February break and we were returning from a family trip to New Hampshire. After driving back to Cape Cod from New Hampshire, we got out of the car just long enough to change, turned around and got back in the car, and drove three and a half hours in another direction out to Amherst. It was a miserable, cold night and the roads were slushy. Neither of us were at all familiar with the Western part of the state, so we were pretty disoriented once we passed Worcester. Google maps directed us down a number of backroads to get to Amherst, and as we drove deeper and deeper down these dark, nearly empty streets, we became convinced that we were going the wrong way. I lost count of how many times we talked about turning around, and how many potholes we ran over in the dark.

When my mom and I checked in at our hotel at 8:30 p.m. we were starving . We each lost our balance a little bit on the black ice in the parking lot at the Italian restaurant where we had dinner, and once we were seated, we learned that the restaurant had run out of the ingredients for the pizza we'd ordered. To us, that was the final straw. 

"I don't know if I can really picture you here," my mom said, before we'd seen campus or had a tour, and I had agreed with her. I was so quick to judge UMass before I had even seen it. The next day, I ended up with a completely different perspective. During Spring Open House I got a sense of how active and busy the UMass campus is. I loved that its size presented so many academic and social opportunities, but that the majors, departments, and the Honors college helped students feel part of a more close-knit community. And lunch at Berk was definitely a high point. UMass is nothing like I pictured my college experience, but once I saw campus for myself and met students who go here, I knew it was a good choice. It's not something that's easy to explain, but being here just makes sense. 

This week's recipe is my grandmother's French dressing, probably my all-time favorite dish and a staple at our Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. My grandmother kept this Canadian stuffing recipe top-secret throughout my childhood. As it turns out, it's super simple, literally just meat and potatoes, but there's something special about it that's hard to pinpoint. Although my grandmother was always pretty vague about measurements and methods, I think the key here is plenty of salt, pepper, and Bell's seasoning, and plenty of time to let the mixture simmer. It doesn't look like much, but there's way more here than meets the eye. I've never met anyone who's tried this dish and didn't love it. 

My Grandmother's French Dressing

  • 2 white potatoes, peeled
  • 1.5 lb ground pork
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • Salt and pepper
  • Bell's seasoning

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and boil the potatoes until fully cooked and soft. Mash the potatoes. In another pan, saute the pork and beef in a little butter. Once fully cooked, add the mashed potatoes, salt and pepper, and plenty of Bell's seasoning. Keep the mixture warm on a low setting until serving. 

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