Editor’s Column: Hieber Café Cravings

My decision to enter Case Library through the left door, and not the right, is a calculated move. It is a move I have practiced throughout my three years at Colgate, one that has become so regular to me that it has been programmed into my brain. Indeed, I am on autopilot when I arrive at the library, for one reason and one reason only: to steal a glance at the bakery display case in Hieber Café.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m in no way claiming the café is the greatest spot on campus. It’s not even the greatest place to eat. It’s always cold and noisy, and though technically it’s the only place food is allowed in Case, finding a table can be a daunting task as finals loom and the library swells to capacity with students. And maybe it’s just me, but prices, rules and even meal options seem to constantly change. Do I have to pay for a cup of water? How much food will a meal swipe get me? What happened to the ever-so-beloved Death Wish coffee?

Yet while I openly acknowledge the café isn’t the best, I cannot help but frequent the establishment. Perhaps my habit of entering the library through the door closest to the café began my first year at Colgate, when I raced to Case after class on Tuesdays to score one of the few Flour & Salt bagels available each week (back in the day when the brick and mortar Flour & Salt had yet to exist). Or maybe it started when my roommate and I sprinted from Stillman to the library in the pouring rain, for no other reason than to munch on some never-seen-again s’mores bars.

The pastries at the café are different now, but the fact of the matter is that I have a sweet tooth that simply must be satisfied. My mom practically passed it down to me, if not by genetics than by raising me among the most delicious of treats. When I was little, I sat at her feet in the kitchen as she churned out cakes and cookies. In high school, I stole spoonfuls of brownie batter. Now in college, I am often greeted with a warm aroma when I come home for breaks: my mom pulls something sweet from the oven just as I open the door to say, “Hello.” 

My mom’s cookies taste like comfort; mine, self-sufficiency. I am a baker, too and am known for bringing delicately decorated desserts to family gatherings. This year, when my uncle asked me what I was bringing for Thanksgiving, I felt truly independent.

Thus, despite the café’s problems, going there is more than a study break for me. It is a chance to satisfy my cravings, not only for sugar but also for the vaguest senses of comfort, independence and pure enjoyment. For bits of first-year memories. And so, as I enter Case, I can’t help but make sure the display case is stocked to my liking.

As I bite into a microwaved library cookie, for a split second I forget that I came to the café to escape my homework. For a split second I indulge in a treat that, though a far-cry from my mom’s desserts, gives me the slightest taste of nostalgia and home.

Contact Mara Stein at [email protected].