This past weekend I had my final dinner at home with my family. We have a long-standing tradition where we get together once a month in St. Louis to take our minds off work, have a nice home-cooked meal, and play some board games, after which it’s back to business as usual.
My family is the best–my Home Plate family, that is! (cue rimshot.)
(I know I had you going there for a second! Like my family would come down from D.C. every month to visit me! Hahaha! And there I go, explaining my unfunny joke to you to make it even unfunnier!)
…anyway. Home Plate is the glorious gathering of peoples that I’ve mentioned a couple of times on this blog already, always adding that I’ll write about it more fully later because it deserves its own post (though really it deserves multiple), so here’s the post (super overdue, as always) in all its glory! (/as glorious as I could make it during finals week):
(But first a small disclaimer: this post has been in the works for a while, so I’ve combined a few different nights into one. Please ignore the mismatching t-shirts and food combinations in favor of the overarching storyline. I apologize for any confusion this might cause and hope you’ll enjoy the story anyway! Thank you and good day.)
Home Plate is a WashU program that matches students with host families who students can visit several times a year for what their website describes as “a touch of home…home-cooked meals and enjoyable dinnertime conversation“. For me, signing up for Home Plate was a no-brainer: these families hang out with you, feed you, and give you a chance to get off campus for a few hours. Why wouldn’t I join?
Not to mention, this program is quintessentially WashU. There’s only one program like this in the whole country, and it’s right here at our school! (Or so I think.) There might be others, but, in any case, WashU, or, more accurately, Risa Zwerling Wrighton (the Chancellor’s wife), started the program. Regardless of where else you might find Home Plate, you won’t find a family like this one anywhere but St. Louis.
The kids! (minus Genna but including one parent) Taken by Scott.
This is my Home Plate family. It’s pretty big: we have two parents, three (biological) kids, three freshman kids, three senior kids, two exchange student kids, and even a dog! Isn’t that incredible? Not only is our family huge, but we’ve been getting together to meet almost every month since the beginning of the year. The seniors in our family have actually been meeting with our Home Plate family for the past four years(!), since they were freshman, and this year, they added me, My Roommate Jamie, and Vivek to form a new generation of the family.
Our home plate family has been nothing short of amazing. In addition to organizing monthly dinners (or should I say feasts?) for our gigantic household, they brought us college kids candy and cookies for Halloween and even helped me go get my bike fixed earlier this semester, making St. Louis truly feel like home for all six of us students.
I bring up our Home Plate family every time I talk to my (actual) family and friends about what makes WashU such a great place to be . It’s definitely part of what has made my freshman year here so fantastic, and I can’t imagine a college experience without all of the wonderful people I’ve met through the program.
For those who are curious, here’s what a typical night would look like with our Home Plate family:
Our family is kind enough to give us rides to their house before every meal. Scott, the Home Plate family father, usually picks up the freshmen from school and takes us to their home, where we hang out for a little while as we wait for the upperclassmen to arrive before we start eating.
Sometimes we wait in the kitchen,
where the delicious homemade bread bakes…
Sometimes we hang out in the living room,
while I attempt to take vaguely artsy photos of myself through the mirror.
Sometimes we just can’t wait and linger around the dining room
(where you can find the family photos and fruit punch!),
and where we’ve had so many of our wonderful dinners together. You should take a moment to appreciate the impeccable decorations and table placement, because before you know it…
the room will be filled to its capacity by our Home Plate family and all that you’ll be worrying about is the food in front of us on the table!
(Here’s our extended family at the dinner table!)
Somehow the room managed to look even brighter after we sat down…though I don’t remember the lighting changing. I guess everyone’s smiles just lit up the room! :)
And thus we arrive at the part we always look forward to so much: the dinner, prepared by none other than Celeste, the mother of the family and the most caring parent, talented cook, and modest person you’ll ever come across on this side of the Mississippi!
At our first Home Plate event, Celeste prepared St. Louis-themed food, including lasagna, gooey butter cake, and homemade waffle cones. We the students have sampled everything from her butternut squash soup to her key lime pie at these dinners, and had one of our most enjoyable culinary experiences at the annual Mystery Dinner, which deserves another post entirely. Part-dinner, part-lottery, part-comedy, let’s just say it involved a multi-course meal where you had to guess what the foods were based on a set of brief and enigmatic clues, leading either to an awesome dinner or one that’s well, slightly harder to eat. But I’ll save the full details for another day.
Right now our focus is on what we had for last night’s dinner, which was the following:
Chicken and risotto,
along with homemade bread and a leafy green salad to fill a plate that is both delicious and nutritious!
After savoring that helping for a good hour or so, and perhaps even getting seconds or thirds (though I’ll never confess how much I ate that day), we readied ourselves for dessert, which included
a plate of warm and buttery cookies,
and something that we chose simply to call “Deliciousness”.
(because that sums it up much more accurately than “four-layer dessert”.)
I repeat: my year would not have been the same without my Home Plate family and without this Home Plate food! These photos are making me so hungry again that I’m struggling to finish this post without wanting to run out of the room back to Celeste’s and beg for more dinner. But before I do that, allow me to show you just one more photo (that’s actually from another dinner, but one that I had to include anyway, because, well…)
it’s 1) amazing and 2) another example of Celeste’s incredible cooking! This is a photo of a dessert from another Home Plate night, taken by Scott. I know, I’m sorry. I’ve already made you so hungry! But there’s just no way I couldn’t include this delectable item in the post.
After dinner we usually gather in the living room and have some good-old family bonding with board games (our go-to game is Taboo, though we did try Pictionary once), or even a few funny home videos. On this particular evening, however, it was so nice outside that we decided to go for a stroll!
It was the perfect temperature as we walked in the setting spring sun to work off all of the cake that we ate…after which we stopped by the park for some fun.
We walk! (Taken with Jamie’s phone because my camera died…)
We pose! (With Josie, the youngest of the three kids, who also include Jane and Jake.)
And we slide down slides!
Good fun all around, and the dinner didn’t even end there. After we got back to the dorm (with another generous ride home from the family) the memories stayed with us into the school week, as they often do when Celeste leaves us with a little bit of the night to take back with us to school. Sometimes it’s soup, sometimes it’s homemade bread, and sometimes it’s brownies, baked by Josie herself! Every time it’s delicious, and every time it reminds me of how lucky I am to have become a part of this wonderful family.
In summary: incoming freshman friends, if there’s anything you should remember to do the second you become a student here, it’s to join this extremely filling and socially rewarding culinary experience called Home Plate. And that’s where my WashU tip for the week comes in: no matter how wild, unpredictable, and busy the first couple of weeks of school are, don’t forget to make time to sign up for Home Plate! It’s as easy as sending an email saying you’re interested to firstname.lastname@example.org.