Preview: Ag Week

As I was going through my agenda for this upcoming week, and simultaneously surfing through Facebook, I realized that this week is a very special and exciting time for students in the College of Agriculture here at Purdue. It’s Ag Week!


As you all know, I am a huge advocate for agriculture, and sometimes I take my blog topic and deviate a bit from the original plan. I will probably be doing that more than usual over the course of the next week!

What better way to learn more about what is on your plate than to learn about agriculture? While agriculture impacts our everyday lives in so many ways, the most commonly associated way is food.

Ag Week’s purpose is to give students and faculty the opportunity to learn more about agriculture in a very interactive, large scale atmosphere where everyone can join in, whether that be petting calves, attending fun workshops, or building your own burger while learning about different ag facts. It is definitely a week full of activities.

In particular, I would like to focus on the food side of Ag Week that I will definitely be attending on my walks to and from classes, and I certainly hope that other people who may not know much about agriculture will be as well. What better incentive to get people to learn about something new than food!?

The first event, and probably one of the most popular parts of Ag Week, is the Milk Monday hosted by the Dairy Club. Tomorrow, you can grab milk and grilled cheese made by Purdue Agriculture students on your way through Memorial Mall.

On Wednesday, the Forestry and Natural Resources Student Council is hosting “Free Chili FNR.” Free chili will be served between 12:30 and 3:00 pm.

Thursday, another extremely popular “food” event will be happening on Memorial Mall. The annual Burger Bash is open from 11:00 am until 2:00 pm, and allows students to go through a line to get a free burger, but there is a catch – each part of the burger is built by learning “ag facts,” and if you can recite one thing you learned at the end, you get to add an extra to your burger: bacon. And who doesn’t like bacon?

Finally, on Friday, outside of Class of 1950 Purdue’s agricultural sorority will be providing lemon shake-ups. The best part: all proceeds will be going to Breaking New Ground, an organization that helps farmers with disabilities. There are definitely a lot of good reasons to participate.

While my last “food” highlight does not have anything to do with the consumption of food (at least not in the U.S.), it is an opportunity for students to provide a much-needed service. On Tuesday evening from 5:00 pm until 9:00, the Hammer Down Hunger event will draw 400 students to help with packaging over 70,000 meals for Haiti.


Students packing meals for Hammer Down Hunger from a past Ag Week.

For more information, check out the Purdue Ag Week Facebook page, or their full list of activities for the week. I will definitely be checking out as many events as I possibly can throughout the week, and hope that plenty of others will also take advantage of this great celebration of the agriculture industry.


Mission: Lotsa Pizza

This week for Com 407, we have been talking about using video. I thought I would try my hand at a video editing app, all while trying Lotsa Pizza for the first time. 

It might be my lack of sleep lately, but I definitely had a little fun with this one. Enjoy! 

Literato: singular of litarati, “persons interested in literature or the arts”

On the weekends, I am rarely on campus. I either go home to see my family, or I have other things going on that keep me away from Purdue. So, on the rare weekends that I find myself on campus, I try to make the most of my time by cleaning my apartment, doing laundry, and catching up on my studies.

However, if I am stuck in my apartment all weekend by myself, I tend to find it hard to be productive. After about an hour of working on homework, I tend to find my way to Netflix to watch an episode of my favorite show, or on social media catching up with what is going on in my friends’ lives.

Now, I know that I am not the only person who has this problem, but I tend to approach it by finding a place elsewhere on campus to maximize my productivity. In high school, I could regularly be found at the coffee shop in town after class, or at Starbucks on the weekends, especially if I was working on a group project with classmates. At Purdue, there are so many more options for places to sit down for a few hours with my laptop.

So today, I decided to check out a cafe that my roommate recommended to me. Even as I type this, I am sitting at their bar with my laptop, a vanilla latte and their “rustic ham & cheese panini” with a bowl of fresh fruit. This place is called Cafe Literato, and I am honestly shocked that I had never heard of it until this semester.

When I first walked in, I was astounded with how big the place was, and how many people had chosen it as their spot for coffee dates, lunch, and to work on homework. For as small as the cafe appears from the outside, it is actually very spacious, and provides a very unique, trendy atmosphere.


Students working on homework together in the front seating area of the cafe.


Honestly, when I sat down and sipped my coffee out of a large red mug, I felt like I had just sat down in Central Perk, the coffee shop from the television show “Friends.” While it is known for its coffee, hence the “cafe” name, it is definitely not anything like a Starbucks, and has its own, very unique menu.


My vanilla latte in a red mug.

For starters, they have an entire third of their menu dedicated to pizza. (And if anyone knows me, they know that pizza is the way to my heart.) They also had sandwiches, salads, and of course, all kinds of coffee. Because I will be having pizza this evening, I ordered a panini and it was amazing. The only thing I thought to compare it to was Panera (one of my favorite places), and it was definitely better than any panini that I have ordered there.


My rustic ham & cheese panini and fresh fruit.

Additionally, the service is incredible. The employee that took my order was genuine and polite, and made sure that I felt welcomed. Also, while I was sitting at the bar watching people get their coffee, I saw a girl took someone else’s order by mistake and walk out the door. The person who had ordered it said she thought that was what happened, and without hesitation and a smile on her face, the barista made her a new drink. To me, that is good service.


Sitting at the bar, where I was able to watch the baristas work behind the scenes.

I wondered around the shop a bit and snapped some photos in the hope that I would be able to capture the atmosphere with my iPhone, but it is hard to do it justice. It’s one of those places you just have to visit to check out for yourself, and I would highly recommend you do.


Cafe patrons in the main seating area.

The only thing that I did not like was that it was challenging to find a seat with an outlet close by to plug in my laptop. That’s not to say that there weren’t plenty – this place just seems to be so popular that all of those seats were taken, which speaks volumes about the place in itself.

It was also a bit pricey, but in my mind, it was worth it for the experience. I ended up spending $12 on a coffee and a panini. If you’re interested in visiting but want to check out their menu first, they have a great online website. It is located on Northwestern and Lindberg.

In Someone Else’s Shoes

I am very glad to be back home in Indiana after spending spring break away from home, and hope that everyone who stayed here enjoyed their “staycations,” and tried some new things – hopefully some of the things I mentioned in my last post! 

As part of my COM 407 class, we were encouraged to interview a classmate about our topic, and use it in a blog post. I am fortunate to have met a very special classmate who is attending Purdue from a very far distance. 

Jade is a fellow classmate who I had not spoken to until this week, and she is from China. Through speaking with her, I also learned something special – she also worked as a waitress in a restaurant while she was home for the summer. 

Realizing that there would probably be cultural differences between dining out in the U.S. and China, I asked her what she thought the biggest difference was between here and her home country.

“In China, waiters and waitresses don’t expect tips,” says Jade. “You definitely can leave them, but we don’t anticipate them and it’s not our primary source of pay like it is here.” 

That brought up another question for me, because I know that waiters and waitresses really depend on tips in the U.S. because their pay is quite often less than minimum wage.

In China, it’s different. 

“You can easily support a basic living on the salary from a waitressing job in China,” Jade said. 

Another difference between restaurants in China and restaurants in the U.S. is fairly closely related to the difference in tipping. Because waiters and waitresses don’t receive tips, they don’t constantly check on their tables to see if they need anything.

“If you have any requests, you can just call them over,” said Jade about waiters in China.

Sitting down and having this conversation with Jade was really interesting for me, because I have never been abroad to experience different cultures. Learning about it firsthand from someone who grew up in a different environment than me was extremely eye opening, and I will definitely take more opportunities to talk to people from different cultures.

Vacation or Staycation?

For the first time in five years, I will be taking a vacation from my spring staycations to travel to Florida with a few of my friends for my senior year of college spring break trip. Every spring break in college has been spent at home with my parents, which has always been great, but with only having one more break left I decided it was time to spend it with a little sand and sun.

I won’t be posting while I am gone, but if you’re doing the “staycation,” I found a few ideas of things to do in Lafayette and West Lafayette this coming week. If you try any of these out, let me know about your experience! I would love to hear about some other peoples’ foodie adventures in the Lafayette area.

  1. Bobby T’s Pub – Since starting this blog, I have been researching new places to check out in the Lafayette area, and today is the first time that I have seen anything about Bobby T’s. It has been open less than a year, and despite the fact that it doesn’t seem to be great with advertising, the reviews on their social media pages are full of praise. If you’re looking for a bar scene with good food, this seems to be the place to try. (And they have specials each day of the week.)
  2. The Igloo Frozen Custard – It’s starting to get warm out, and even though The Igloo is open year-round, it’s hard not to crave custard when the temperature starts to go up in the spring. This is a place I frequently drive by on my way out of Lafayette when I go home, but have never stopped. It’s on my list of things to try this semester, but if I don’t get to it before summer, I’d love to know what you think if you have tried it.
  3. Pappy’s & Bowling – If you’re a student on campus, it’s likely that you’ve been by Pappy’s in the Memorial Union. You may have even stopped in for a burger, fries, and a milkshake a time or two. However, you may not have known, or even noticed, that there is a bowling alley on that same floor of the Union. (I’m not going to lie, I’ve been past it multiple times and did not even know it was there.) If you’re staying on campus over spring break, a visit to Pappy’s and a game of bowling with your friends might just make for the perfect afternoon. And if you weren’t aware, Pappy’s is celebrating its 90th birthday this year!
  4. Knickerbocker Saloon – Okay, so this one intrigues me to no end and I cannot wait to try it when I get back from break. While I was researching new places the other day, this came up for the first time in my searches. Located in downtown Lafayette, it claims to be Indiana’s oldest bar. (With a name like “Knickerbocker,” and the fact that it is still called a saloon, I believe it, too.) Open since 1835, its website explains that it was proclaimed the oldest bar in Indiana by the Indiana State General Assembly on it’s 175th anniversary. I feel like this place would be worth checking out just for the history – but they also have a wide variety of beers, and provide live entertainment and events. Check out their events page for a few different happenings during the week of spring break.
  5. Fair Oaks Farms – My last one, and my plug for agriculture (of course). While Fair Oaks isn’t necessarily in Lafayette, if you’re staying in the area for break, it’s a fairly quick 45 minute drive directly north of campus off of I-65. An inexpensive day trip, the farm is an educational experience that teaches visitors about dairy farming, and most recently, there is a pig experience as well. I thought of this activity because, while I do really love the agricultural education aspect of the farm, they also have the BEST grilled cheese. I am a huge cheese-lover, and I am not exaggerating when I say that it is worth the trip just for the different kinds of grilled cheese you can order and eat in their restaurant. They also have a huge assortment of cheese that you can buy packaged, as well as ice cream, and a number of other dairy products, all of which I highly recommend trying.

Everyone have a safe break, enjoy your vacations, staycations, and of course – let me know if you try anything absolutely stellar.

Fighting Hunger at Home

This week, while I was working on decluttering my life by cleaning out my inbox, responding to emails, deleting unnecessary messages that were taking up room in my Outlook, etc., I took a little time out to forward information about a community service project out to some of my peers at the request of a Purdue faculty member.

This particular community service event was the annual College of Agriculture Food Drive. At first, I treated it as a pretty run-of-the-mill request, the type that I deal with nearly everyday in my position with the club I am involved with. However, as I continued to read about it, I became more intrigued and decided to do a little research myself.

The Food Drive functions as a partnership between clubs and organizations within the College of Agriculture here at Purdue, and the local food bank, called Food Finders. To learn more about the organization, I visited their website.

There, I was surprised to learn a few things. First of all, Food Finders has been a part of Tippecanoe County, as well as 15 other surrounding counties in Indiana, since 1981. I also learned that an enormous amount of food annually – 7.5 million pounds, to be exact.

I had never really thought about it before, but in the midst of college students at Purdue living their own lives in the bubble of campus, and people who go to work everyday and are able to provide for their families, there are still others not far from home who are struggling to make ends meet, and cannot always afford their meals.

It made me think of how I am trying new things this semester for my class, and while I have the luxury of purchasing a meal just to try it, there are people not far away who can barely even afford the bare minimum when it comes to food.

There are different ways to define community. For example, sitting around the table to enjoying a meal with friends or family is community. But for those who can’t sit around the table with their loved ones, community is found when those who are realizing the need come together to provide for those who can’t provide for themselves.

My eyes have been opened to the importance of having Food Finders in our community, and I fully intend to participate in tackling the problem of food insecurity in our community by joining in on the College of Agriculture Food Drive this month, and maybe even by going to Food Finders to volunteer.

They can always use more people, and there are so many ways to get involved. I am glad that I chose to dig a little deeper into this cause, and hope that I can convince at least a few people to also volunteer. For more information on the different ways to help out, visit the Food Finders website.


Chicken burritos and tots, oh my!

As college students, we don’t always stick to the best sleep schedules, or even meal schedules, as we are trying to juggle classwork, extracurriculars, and a social life. I’ll admit, sometimes I stay up until 2 am working on homework (okay, sometimes I spend it on Netflix), and I eat a snack at 4 pm and forget real dinner until 10 pm. By then, I don’t really want to make anything.

Wednesday night was definitely one of those nights. I had told one of my good friends about an article that I had read doing research for my COM 407 class that day about a restaurant that was still very new on campus called Two Fellas Grill. It opened up shop next to Jimmy John’s on Chauncey hill at the beginning of the semester, and even though it faces the busy intersection at Chauncey Avenue and State Street, I hadn’t noticed it.

My friend and I are all about trying new things, and he and I especially have an appreciation for good food. He also knows that I am trying new things for class this semester, and so he has accompanied me to a few different places already.

He and I had already shared an order of breadsticks earlier that day, and we both didn’t eat dinner, so around 10 pm we were both ready for some late night comfort food after a day of studying. He called me just as I was settling in to start a new show on Netflix, and suggested that we check out that new place that I had told him about.

So, even though I was already in my sweats and a baggy sweatshirt, I was still up for an adventure. I threw on my coat and met him outside to try this new place.

When we pulled up, it was a pretty plain looking place, and there weren’t very many people there. I wasn’t surprised, because not many people grab dinner after 10 pm, even though the grill was advertised as the newest late-night place to grab a bite.

The guys working were extremely nice, and asked us how we had heard of the place. I mentioned the article, and he conveyed that he was excited that they were still getting traffic from it, as the article had been released last week. It generated a lot of new customers that particular day.

My friend and I then proceeded to check out the menu. From what I had read, Two Fellas was all about burritos and wraps, but they have their own take on it that could distinctly be labeled as comfort food. We both decided to order the first thing on the menu….appropriately called “The First Item On The Menu.”


About to order at Two Fellas.

We sat while they made our burritos, unsure of what we had really gotten ourselves into. But we did know that the menu description of what we ordered looked really, really good. They made our food right in front of us, and it was incredibly fast.

As a college student on a limited budget, I was not initially thrilled about the price of $7.50, as I was expecting something much lower for just a burrito. However, when we got our food, I understood why it was that much. The portion size was HUGE.


A photo of my burrito after I had bitten into it – you can see the chicken, tater tots, ranch, cheese, and sour cream inside, creating a perfect blend of comfort food flavor.

The unique thing about Two Fellas was the content of their wraps and burritos. What makes them special is the tater tots inside. Personally I have never heard of anyone putting tater tots in a wrap or a burrito, and I was skeptical at first, but now I am a believer, and I highly recommend it.

The only thing that I would recommend for them to change, is to add an option for a smaller burrito. While a lot of people can and will eat the whole thing, some people would not be able to and would probably waste some, and so offering a smaller portion for a slightly cheaper price would probably be beneficial to the new grill.

I really hope that this place will soon become a staple for Purdue students, and become just as popular as places like Hotbox and Mad Mushroom.

Who parties on a Tuesday?

So, yesterday was Fat Tuesday. As a girl from the midwest, I feel that I could not be any farther removed from the French tradition that still continues in New Orleans. However, quite a few of my peers partook in Fat Tuesday festivities yesterday. While being at Purdue, I also feel like I have learned quite a bit about the traditions surrounding the celebration.

Our Associate Dean and Director of Academic Programs of the College of Agriculture at Purdue actually spent a number of years at Louisiana State University, and has brought the traditions of the bayou to Purdue. He and his wife are known for hosting different student groups at their home for dinner, and as a student who has participated in a few of these, I have learned to embrace the Louisiana-inspired cuisine.

It is not uncommon to walk into the Fernandez household to the smell of fresh Jambalaya, and it certainly never disappoints. (I’ve been known to fill my plate with seconds.)

So of course, Dr. Fernandez brought the tradition of Fat Tuesday to campus yesterday with free King Cakes for students (while it lasted) in the Agricultural Administration building where his office is.

I saw the announcement on Facebook that they would be available, and so of course I took the opportunity to indulge my sweet tooth, and try something new. The treat certainly did not disappoint.

With all of the festivities going on, I decided to do a little research on the traditions of Mardi Gras.

First of all, while I was picking up my piece of king cake along with a few of the other students who were there for the free sweet treat, I learned that there is always a small plastic baby inside the cake meant to represent baby Jesus. This was the first tradition that I decided to research.

Initially, centuries ago in old world Europe, it started out as a bean that was hidden in the cake. The plastic baby came into the picture later. Regardless, finding the bean or the baby has always meant that you get to be the king for the day – and that you have to buy next year’s cake.

The king cake is typically colored in the traditional Mardi Gras colors, purple, green, and yellow, which each symbolize something different. Purple stands for justice, green is for faith, and gold is for power.


A traditional Mardi Gras King Cake.

Another thing I wondered about was the purpose behind Mardi Gras, and so I did some research on that.

As it turns out, “Mardi Gras” actually translates to “Fat Tuesday” in French. It is always the Tuesday before Lent, and is meant to be the day that people reflect on the sins that they need to atone for during Lent. However, it has become more of a day to indulge in everything you are giving up for Lent. Hence, the partying.

Although we are sitting in the middle of the midwest, I feel that I have been more exposed to the traditions of Mardi Gras, and hope to one day experience it for myself in New Orleans.


“Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner”

I have mentioned a few times that I am a student of the College of Agriculture at Purdue. Something that I have been involved with here, and have been involved with for a number of years, is judging. I know that sounds a little “judgmental,” but I promise it’s not judging other people – only livestock.

If you have ever been to a livestock or horse show of any kind, or even have the slightest idea of how one works, you know that someone has to decide who wins, and who loses. It takes years of hard work to learn how to evaluate classes at these shows, and it is something you can do as part of a team at multiple levels, including collegiate.

When it comes to judging livestock (which typically includes the species of beef cattle, swine, sheep, and goats), the purpose is to find the best stock, which ultimately ends up on the plate. The whole drive behind the livestock industry is to evaluate which animals are going to create the tastiest end product, whether that be a steak, bacon, or a lamb chop.

Livestock judging has been one of the most important things to me over the years, and especially during my time at Purdue. I gained invaluable skills that I will be able to use for the rest of my life, I had the opportunity to travel the country, and I made the best group of friends a girl could ask for.

As I was sitting at my desk this afternoon, contemplating what to post about, I was looking at a newly framed picture of my team. I decided to bring my passion for animal agriculture into the picture, and try to get a little creative with my post by sharing something that doesn’t have to do with trying new restaurants in Lafayette, but something that might make your grilling experiences this spring and summer a little more informed.


My team members and I with our coach out at Purdue’s beef unit this past December, where we put in multiple hours of practice for competition over the past year and a half.

While I have plenty of experience as part of a team evaluating the different species while they are on the farm in a live setting, when it comes to judging cuts of meat, I am not necessarily the most competent from a visual standpoint. However, this is an extremely valuable skill that anyone could make use of.

I could delve into any species from the standpoint of different cuts of meat, and where they come from on the animal, and what factors go into making a cut of meat taste amazing. However, for this post, I decided to talk a little bit about beef.

There are different categories of beef cattle that we judge, but specifically, “market cattle” are the ones that are going to end up as the steak on your plate. Therefore, we take into consideration things like muscle and fat when we decide which animals are the best.


College students from Universities across the country evaluate a class of cattle at a practice hosted by a farm in Illinois.

When evaluating live market animals, it takes a while to train your eye to be able to evaluate how fat an animal is, as well as how muscular it is. We also are able to handle the livestock to feel for fat and muscle.

You want a little fat in your meat, because that is what gives it flavor. This is called marbling in a steak. However, it is a fine line. You don’t want too much fat in your steak, but you do want just enough to ensure that delicious flavor.


Boilermakers learning how to handle cattle from the Purdue livestock judging coach.

There are three grades of beef: USDA Prime, USDA Choice, and USDA Select, with Prime being the best, and Select being the least desirable. When you order a steak at a nice restaurant, it is most likely USDA Prime beef, which has the most marbling (fat) – although not too much – is extremely palatable (meaning that it is easy to chew), has a lot of flavor, and is very juicy.

USDA Choice is also served in restaurants. Although it will cost a bit less, it is still extremely flavorful and tender if cooked correctly. Select cuts are the leanest, and so many people who are hoping to cut back on their fat intake will reach for this cut at the grocery store. However, in doing this, they sacrifice flavor, because it is the cut with the least amount of marbling.

Cattle farmers and ranchers sure do have their work cut out for them. They want to raise cattle that grade really high, and they also want the public to get the best product possible. Also, the higher the grade, the more they make on their sales. Feeding cattle is a tricky business, because they have to be on a ration that ensures they have plenty of muscle, and just enough fat.

In the diagram above, you can tell what each cuts of steak look like before they are cooked. These grades also apply to other cuts of meat, including ground beef. I know that before I was familiar with judging, I would typically reach for the leaner ground beef, but in doing that, I was sacrificing flavor.

Nowadays I make sure that I am evaluating the meat that I buy in the store, because livestock judging taught me what will taste the best, and why.

There are so many factors that have been constantly improved upon over the years to make the meat animal industry what it is today, and as consumers, it is in our best interest to try to understand it. My hope is that you all learned a little something about purchasing beef, and how to find the steak that will taste great, as well as a little bit about the commitment and time that has gone into what ends up on the plate.

If you want to know a little more about where other cuts of meat come from, check out this diagram from the American Angus Association.


Different cuts of beef, and where they come from on the animal.