Sunday, 20 May 2012

33 Hours in Three of Indiana's Cities

With an early morning start to the weekend, I made my way to South Bend for my third graduation in three weeks. This time around, the focus was on Notre Dame's commencement exercises for the graduate programs of the colleges of Arts and Letters, Engineering, and Sciences. And after two years of coursework, Lauren was up to receive her Master of Arts in Romance Languages and Literature degree; it was exciting (I'm sure there's a more justifiable word to use instead) to see her complete this part of her academic journey (the next one of which kicks off in the fall at Emory). In many respects, commencements are events that reenergise me and the work I currently do in higher ed-- I'd like to think we strive to ensure the best experiences for our students. However, as a graduate ceremony, this one was particularly interesting as it reinvigorated my own motivations for graduate study in the future. In any case, following the conferral of degrees and a light reception, I joined Lauren and her parents at Legends of Notre Dame (where we were extremely luck to find an empty table with many families on campus this weekend), before continuing my short visit to Indiana and my next stop at Valparaiso.

Unsurprisingly, a football (er, soccer for others) match was playing on Louie's television by the time I got to his apartment a little over an hour away from Notre Dame. Louie, a res hall neighbour at Albion who later transferred to Michigan State, is currently studying law at Valpo and it had been quite a while since we last saw each other; yet, as is the case with many of my friends, it felt as if I had just seen him yesterday. And as most daily activities go, we made a quick grocery run, before the driving and heat fatigues hit me. When I woke up, I found Louie getting dinner ready by way of showing off his elevated cooking skills (defined as non-crockpot cooking); he had earlier prepared citrus chicken fillets which had been marinading in fresh orange, lime and lemon juice, as well as the citrus segments. In addition, he had going chicken and broccoli flavoured (? yeah, I don't even really know what that means) pasta, and brought out a jar of [from home] homemade apple sauce.

Following dinner, and with the weather finally cooling down, Louie took me on a tour of campus and the town (despite his convictions, the latter tour was the better one), before a second nap (that time, during a baseball game) and subsequent return to town and Pass Times, the proclaimed law school bar (oh, I just got that). A well lit establishment, it was uncharacteristically packed, but mainly because of the fact this, too, was Valpo's graduation weekend. After Pass Times, two of Louie's friends--Christina and Sarah--joined us at Steak 'n Shake, where I got a Hershey's Special Dark chocolate milkshake and--because I was in the mood for only one--a single steakburger shooter. Despite any argumentation against the single order, I still question why the patty ended up being as thin as it was--just barely thicker than a few sheets of printer paper.

On our tour yesterday, Louie pointed out notable foodie locations, and one which caught my eye was Valley, the concept of which is "farm 2 fork." For lunch then I aimed to check it out, but upon arrival we found out they don't open until 4pm each evening (though they do stay open "until late").

And so, we went to The Silver Spoon, which Louie described as being a modern hipster kind of restaurant. As I embraced the mocha I ordered, I immediately knew what he meant in his initial description; and the live piano music was a nice touch. For brunch, Louie settled for the Downtown Skillet: two eggs cooked to order, served over house potatoes, with sausage, onions, bell peppers and cheddar cheese.

With so many deliciously written items on the menu, I went with chocolate pancakes, a Silver Spoon original. The three pancakes were incredibly fluffy and I soon found out they also had warm chocolate chips. In addition, they came with a warm berry compote (which is wonderful all on its own) and Kahlúa butter (of which you can never really have enough). This notion of warmth and overall friendly vibe of northwest Indiana travelled with me southward as I stopped by West Lafayette to catch up with Grace, another Albion alum whom I haven't seen in ages it seems. In very quick summary, and with a quick halt to this post on an unfortunately quick visit (33-ish hours spent in Indiana, within a 48 hour period), I feel extremely fortunate to have a such wonderful friends in my life, especially ones who share and appreciate the joys of education, ones who come from rather diverse backgrounds and ones who, of course, love food. Hopefully there won't be as long of a delay until I see them again; and if I haven't seen you in a while... we need to get to planning! For an album of the photos I took while in South Bend and Valparaiso, click here.

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