Vegan MoFo #17: Easy as Rosemary Apple Pie

vegan mofo 2013

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I’ve gained a reputation on the Vassar campus as a sort of “expert vegan” thanks to the ol’ blog, my articles and cooking videos for the campus news paper, my co-presidency with the Vassar Animal Rights Coalition (VARC), and my residency in Ferry House. From this inherited role, I’ve fielded such questions as, “But what exactly is tofu? Can you elaborate upon the intersectionalities between veganism and Judaism? Will you show me how to use the stir-fry station in the Deece (Vassar’s dining hall)?” Not only do these inquiries come from housemates and close friends, but also from random classmates with whom I’ve never before spoken, over Vassar Gmail, and through Facebook. Recently, my VARC co-president and I have decided to expand this role of “expert vegan” to encompass VARC’s most devoted members as a whole with the launch of the Veggie Buddy System. A blurb about the program follows:

“VARC’s Veggie Buddy System pairs veg-curious folk and aspiring vegans/vegetarians with experienced vegans in an effort to ease the transition to a more compassionate, environmentally friendly lifestyle, and thereby render veganism/vegetarianism more accessible to a larger number of Vassar students. Providing an immersive and guided experience through the first month of your veg journey, the Veggie Buddy System ensures you a knowledgeable, enthusiastic, and friendly companion available 24/7 to answer any and all of your veg-related inquiries.”

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The first round of the System begins on Sunday, October 6, and I find myself nearly exploding with kale in excitement, especially considering that I’ve envisioned the birth of this program since my senior year of high school. For the next few weeks, however, I’ll have to satisfy my yearning to provide vegan mentorship by continuing to respond to my campus’ various veg-related requests. The latest of these I received from my fellow Miscellany News staff member, who asked if I could whip up some allergy-free goodies to celebrate the birthday of another staff member with gluten and soy intolerances. Pff, just gluten- and soy-free? Give me a challenge.

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I would have created a more elaborate dessert if not for the lack of coconut milk, agave nectar, peanut butter, and gluten-free oats in the Ferry pantry (we’ve reached the dregs of our monthly bulk order—thank goodness I pick up the next one tonight). Thus, I produced a simple yet flaky, naturally sweet, uniquely herby, and all-around scrumptious Rosemary Apple Pie in less than 30 minutes. How’s that for “easy as pie”?

Simple Rosemary Apple Pie

Makes one 9″ pie.

Ingredients:

5 medium-sized, sweet apples, cored and diced
4 sprigs of fresh rosemary
1 tsp lemon juice

2 cups all-purpose gluten-free flour (I like the one from Bob’s Red Mill)
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 cup coconut sugar
5 tbsp coconut oil, solid
5 tbsp cold water
1/2 tsp lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

In a medium-sized saucepan, combine the apples, rosemary, and lemon juice. Set over medium-high heat, cover, and cook for 5-10 minutes, stirring periodically until the apples have broken down.

Meanwhile, whisk together the flour, salt, and coconut sugar in a medium-sized bowl. Add the coconut oil, water, and lemon juice, then cut the wet ingredients into the dry using either a pastry cutter, a fork, or your hands (I much prefer the latter) until a uniform dough forms. Press the dough evenly into the bottom and sides of a 9″ pie pan, then bake the crust for 10 minutes.

When the apples have broken down, pour them into the prebaked crust and bake for another 20 minutes or until the crust is golden-brown.

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Recipe submitted to Healthy Vegan Fridays and Wellness Weekend.

Until next time, Ali.

Vegan MoFo #16: Pinto Beans n’ Greens Stew, Rosemary-Sage Roasted Root Veggies, & Seasoned Millet

vegan mofo 2013

Last night I once again assumed the role of Ferry Dinner Cook, along with my dear housemate Allie. I began my culinary task with the goal of employing in our meal as many of the fast wilting green leafies, as well as the underused root vegetables, in the refrigerator as possible. It seemed to me that the greens (an amalgamation of kale, collards, and leaves from carrots, beets, turnips, and radishes) would marry well in a stew with the pinto beans that I had set to soak that morning, while the roots (a mix of turnips, butternut and kabocha squash, beets, and sweet potatoes) would best showcase their comforting succulence in caramelized, roasted form, accentuated by fresh rosemary and sage.

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Though I intended to recreate this recipe for Garlicky White Bean Stew with Kale, a couple of unexpected factors complicated this task:
1.) I discovered a surprising lack of garlic in the Ferry kitchen last night.
2.) The Ferry pantry currently houses only pinto beans, garbanzos, and lentils, with no mention of white beans (though this will soon change with the bulk order delivered this Thursday).
3.) I mistook the jar of cayenne for that of paprika, thus imparting a spicier kick to the stew than I had originally intended (darn Ferry’s unlabeled spice rack!).

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Despite these setbacks, the stew turned out as a hearty, comforting, and immensely nourishing dish that harbored a nice depth of flavor thanks to the caramelized onions that simmered with the beans, as well as the multiplicity of bold greens. Since one would have to either tremendously undercook or burn to a crisp roasted root vegetables in order to detract from their deliciousness, that aspect of dinner proved predictably perfect (points for alliteration). The millet provided a bit of a surprise for my diners, who did not expect the punch of umami that pervaded the unassuming side dish, thanks to the generous sprinklings of nutritional yeast, cumin, and tamari that I mixed into the creamy cooked grain.

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As I always do when I cook Ferry dinner, last night I felt honored to provide a scrumptious and satisfying meal to the 21 thoughtful, generous, kind, and vivacious individuals with whom I live. I’ve recently realized that aiding others serves to improve my own mood, as showcased when I sought advice from my Ferry room neighbor, ended up working through his own difficulties, and left his room sharing a sense of complete uplift. Once again, Ferry offered its constant reminder of the strong power of community, especially a community largely revolving around wholesome food that minimizes harm to all beings.

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Until next time, Ali.

Vegan MoFo #15: Raw Blueberry-Lavender Birthday Cupcakes

vegan mofo 2013

Raw cupcakes with blueberry-cashew frosting and filled with blueberry jam.

Raw cupcakes with blueberry-cashew frosting and filled with blueberry jam.

I don’t believe that we as human entities can ever “have” time. Time constitutes the atmosphere surrounding us, the realm in which we live. Just as one cannot manipulate the air, the sunlight, or the temperature (individually and without profound consequences, at least), one cannot employ time to serve one’s own purposes. Rather than viewing life as a medium in which I either “have” or do not “have” time to engage in tasks and activities, I prefer to think of life as a series of continual actions and contemplations that affect each other interconnectedly. An action does not end while another begins, for all of our past actions contribute to our current states of being. We cannot govern the time in which we participate in these actions, for we cannot foresee the entirety of our lives in which all of these actions continuously interact and build upon one another. Time provides the culture in the petri dish of life and we grow within it, rather than functioning as the scientists manipulating it. Time happens. We happen. Yes, we must abide by deadlines and due dates in the goal-driven society that we have constructed, but we do not “have” the time in which to do so—time merely allows us the space and possibility of doing so.

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I say all of this in the context of having not created birthday treats on my actual birthday. Many would claim that I simply didn’t “have” the time on my birthday to bake a batch of goodies, but I posit that time constituted a pretty major presence on that particular day, and on every other day. The beauty of time’s omnipresence, however, showcases itself in the fact that I made some darn fabulous raw cupcakes yesterday. Time continued past my birthday. I continued past my birthday. Cupcakes continued past my birthday (though not for long thanks to my hungry housemates).

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Transitioning from the realm of philosophy to the realm of kitchen antics, I’d like to share with you, dear readers the Raw Blueberry-Lavender Cupcakes that I made to celebrate my 19 years on this planet. Inspired by this recipe from Fragrant Vanilla Cake, I crafted the cupcakes with the following recipe modifications:

1.) Substituted 1/2 cup of shredded coconut, soaked overnight and drained, for the young coconut meat in the cake base.
2.) Substituted another cup of soaked cashews for the coconut meat in the frosting.
3.) Used coconut oil where the recipe called for coconut butter and maple syrup where the recipe called for coconut nectar.
4.) Included the lavender in the frosting rather than in the cake base.

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As my Ferry housemates assured me throughout the day, the cupcakes turned out phenomenally, and offered me a legitimate excuse to break out the House’s dehydrator for which I had longed all summer. Mounds of dehydrated kale chips will soon fill the living room if no one restrains me.

Until next time, Ali.

Vegan MoFo #14: Chickpea-Tomato Curry w/ Cauliflower, Corn & Heirloom Tomato Salad, and Brown Rice

vegan mofo 2013

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I enjoyed last night’s dinner in the setting of Ferry House Meeting. Every week, we 21 members of Ferry congregate on the mismatched couches of the House living room to discuss House practices, intentions, and general feelings of members so as to ensure the most mindful, safe, and enjoyable living experience for all Ferries. Our House Meetings used to take place on late Wednesday evening, but they’ve recently relocated to Sunday at dinnertime, a context that has contributed to a sense of joviality surrounding an often rather serious atmosphere. While the specificities of Ferry Meeting remains confidential, I can relay that each Meeting provides a supportive venue in which to reflect upon the meaning of living in an intentional community….

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…and now in which to munch upon scrumptious vegan meals. Provided by dear Ferries Wanda and Layla, last night’s Ferry dinner consisted of a wonderfully aromatic stew of chickpeas, tomatoes, and cauliflower lightly spiced with curry powder; a late summer salad of sweet corn, hefty chunks of juicy heirloom tomatoes, bright and crunchy bell peppers, and bitter beet greens; and the standard pot of simple (yet always satisfying) brown rice. I left Ferry Meeting verily impressed by the dinnertime offerings of well-crafted food and thoughtful discussion.

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In Vassar Animal Rights Coalition (VARC) news, Carol Adams will visit the Vassar campus to present her Sexual Politics of Meat Slide Show on Sunday, September 29 at 5:00 pm with a book signing and reception of vegan hors d’oeuvres to follow. The Slide Show employs images of women and animals in contemporary popular culture to discuss interconnected oppressive attitudes toward both groups, showcasing images in popular culture that animalize women and sexualize animals. Vegan blogger and Vassar alum Sarah E. Brown of Queer Vegan Food brought Carol Adams to campus a couple years back, and I’m thrilled to once again welcome Carol to campus. If any of you, dear readers, live in the New York area, I would love to see you at the event. Here is the Facebook event for more details.

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Until next time, Ali.

Vegan MoFo #13: Tamarind Noodle Stir Fry, the Sistah Vegan Conference, & Birthday Love

vegan mofo 2013

Yesterday, my birthday, boasted a bike ride with my good friend Gabe over the Hudson River, attendance of the Sistah Vegan Web Conference with my VARC co-president and secretary, and an intriguing dinner that featured one of my new favorite ingredients: tamarind concentrate.

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After reveling in my usual green smoothie-granola breakfast bowl, Gabe and I hopped on our bikes and embarked upon the 8-mile journey through Poughkeepsie and across the Walkway Over the Hudson, the longest elevated pedestrian bridge in the world. Though exhilarating to speed over the Walkway with the wind whipping through my hair while Gabe and I reminisced over our most memorable burrito experiences, traversing Poughkeepsie always instills in me a slight sense of despair, for there exists a prominent juxtaposition between the wealthy, privileged students at Vassar and the largely impoverished, underserved community surrounding us. I suppose that witnessing this disconcerting disparity constitutes the first step in fostering change, and I know that Vassar reaches out to Poughkeepsie residents through school tutoring and gardening programs…but that doesn’t ease my deep anger with the class war that intensifies every day. From that class war, of course, comes food deserts and exploitation of agricultural workers (among other food-related issues), all of which hugely intertwine with the commodification of non-human beings.

These contemplations of the intersections between class issues, racism, and speciesism continued throughout the day with the Sistah Vegan Web Conference, entitled “Embodied and Critical Perspectives on Veganism by Black Women.” Conference presentation topics included the animal rights movement’s problematic tendency to perpetuate patriarchal ideals in campaigns; the paradigm between the body types of black vegan women and the stereotypical skinny, white vegan body; and the oppression often bolstered through the consumption of vegan commodities (for example, the cocoa trade largely depends upon child labor). My fellow VARC ladies and I gathered in my room to virtually attend the conference, and spent a thought-provoking afternoon listening, learning, and discussing these urgent social issues.

 Katie and I broke from the conference for about an hour to concoct a Thai-inspired, veggie-laden, steaming hot dinner inspired by G0lubka’s recipe for Cellophane Noodle with Crispy Vegetables. Though we modified the recipe considerably, Katie and I still managed to produce a satisfying one-dish meal. Our cooking method follows: we sautéed one small onion, a large clove of garlic, and a generous knob of fresh ginger in a tablespoon of coconut oil until just browned. We then added half of a head of green cabbage, a big handful of green beans, and a couple sliced button mushrooms and sautéed until caramelized. Meanwhile, we whisked together the juice of three limes, one tablespoon of olive oil, two tablespoons of coconut sugar, one tablespoon of tamarind concentrate, and one tablespoon of tamari, while we boiled a package of brown rice noodles. Finally, we added a diced heirloom tomato, the cooked noodles, and the sauce to the sauté pan and tossed until well-combined. The tangy, succulent noodles would find improvement only with the addition of pan-fried tofu squares and fresh basil.

I concluded my day by discovering multiple wishes of birthday love plastered upon my door in Ferry, ever reminded of the supportive community in which I’m so unbelievably lucky to take part.

Until next time, Ali.

Vegan MoFo #12: Chickpea-Tomato Soup & Rosemary Roasted Potatoes

vegan mofo 2013

I often reference here on the ol’ blog my lifelong cultivated, deeply meaningful relationship with food—even before adopting a vegan lifestyle, I viewed my personal food choices as profoundly political acts, votes against an exploitative agricultural system dominated by a corrupt corporate-governmental alliance and for a mode of food production that nourished the earth and all of its inhabitants. Hell, I felt like Wonder Woman (the not overly sexualized version reinforcing the patriarchy) every time I shopped at the farmers’ market, kicking the butts of the GMO and pharmaceutical industries with my three bunches of organic lacinato kale. My food activism has become much more nuanced and effective since the days in which I understood supporting local farmers as the utmost act of social justice, and in turn, my appreciation for unprocessed, unpolluted, unchemicalized (it can be a word, don’t worry about it), unexploitative food has only intensified.

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Though this omnipresent connection with food prompts me to recognize my every meal as celebratory events (even the packed lunches I shovel into my mouth between classes), some meals inspire in me a more acute sense of nourishment—both internal and external—than others. Last night’s Ferry Dinner offered one of these special meals.

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While yesterday boasted a rather balmy temperature of 80 degrees, it also featured gloomy skies and an overall atmosphere of grayness. Thus, when Ferries Robyn and Matt presented the house with a dinner of steaming chickpea-tomato soup and rosemary roasted potatoes, I experienced a feeling of comfort akin to an embrace from an old friend. Since Robyn set the soup to simmer about two hours before dinnertime, the wafting aroma of savory herbs vastly ameliorated the task of reading rather dry articles of China’s economic development, and only contributed to the sense of fulfillment engendered by my first spoonful of the soup.

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Robyn and Matt’s soup featured home-simmered chickpeas, carrots with their greens, celery, mushrooms, and herbs in a tomato broth, while the roasted potatoes harbored a strong flavor of fresh rosemary, as well as an impeccable balance between creaminess and crunchiness. I honestly could not offer this meal any higher praise, and feel indescribably lucky to have enjoyed it among the most caring, kind, witty, and thoughtful housemates in existence. Joy consumes me every day that I live in Ferry House.

Do you have a space in which you feel profoundly at home? Is there a particular food or dish that contributes to this sense?

Until next time, Ali.

Vegan MoFo #11: Sourdough Lentil Casserole, Crunchy Kale Salad, Roasted Squash & Sweet Potatoes, and Brown Rice

vegan mofo 2013

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Last night’s Ferry Dinner accomplished a feat that seldom occurs on the Vassar campus (and far beyond): it featured a dish of which I had never heard before. Not to majorly toot my proverbial culinary horn, but I consider my gastronomic knowledge as rather expansive thanks to a childhood of foodie tours of Italy, Food Network marathons, and hours of paging through cookbooks. As such, I become overwhelmingly intrigued when confronted with an unfamiliar dish, and never expected to enter this state while living in the rather basic (though always scrumptious) culinary space of Ferry House.

Alan's breadmeal.

Alan’s breadmeal.

My good friend and Mercy for Animals employee Alan introduced me to last night’s unknown dish—a casserole of lentils, shredded vegetables (including eggplant, carrots, bell peppers, and tomatoes), and sourdough starter known as “breadmeal,” of which Alan learned through fermentation expert Sandor Katz’s acclaimed book Wild Fermentation. The dish harbored a deeply savory flavor undercut by just a smidge of sour yeastiness, while the texture of its chewy, crackly crust immediately wooed me. I look forward to partake in Alan’s future fermentation-related ventures, including an attempt at culturing our own tempeh in the Ferry dehydrator.

Kale salad.

Kale salad.

Alan and “sous chef” Hannah accompanied the breadmeal with simple side dishes of short-grain brown rice, garlicky roasted butternut squash and sweet potatoes, and a lightly dressed kale salad with celery, carrots, and apples. A well-rounded and educational meal!

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Until next time, Ali.

Vegan MoFo #10: Garlic-Rosemary Millet, Pepper-Apple Stir Fry, & Roasted Green Beans

vegan mofo 2013

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Because Ferry grocery shopping happens on Sundays and Wednesdays, Ferries who cook dinner on Tuesday nights often must employ a healthy dose of culinary creativity in order to produce a satisfying meal from the scant refrigerator. Tuesday dinner cooks also frequently encounter a puzzling phenomenon: much of one particular type of vegetable remains in the fridge while all others have disappeared over the course of the week. One may find two unopened bags of carrots one week, whereas the next week will play host to an influx of eggplant. Because Ferries do not consistently avoid these veggies, we as a house clearly do not harbor an aversion to them, but may unknowingly abide by a collective mentality that conditions us not to eat the veggies that no one else seems to have eaten. I suppose that even members of a non-hierarchical, egalitarian, anti-establishment co-op such as Ferry still find themselves influenced in some capacity by social norms. Who knew vegetables could engender societal constructs?

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Last night’s sparse refrigerator boasted a largely untouched canvas grocery bag of multicolored bell peppers, as well as a drawer full of farmers’ market apples. Also drawing upon our stock of bulk grains, dinner cooks Franny and Rhyston produced a colorful, flavorful meal that included a stir fry of crisp-tender bell peppers and softened apples seasoned with tamari, simply roasted green beans, and creamy rosemary-garlic millet. The concentrated sweetness of the roasted green beans and polenta-like consistency of the millet verily impressed me, as did Franny and Rhyston’s use of our fresh rosemary plant—the most recent addition to the herb garden in the Ferry dining room.

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In animal activist news, myself and three other core members of the Vassar Animal Rights Coalition (VARC) underwent a photo shoot yesterday for an article in the winter edition of the Vassar Quarterly magazine. After Sarah E. Brown—blogger at Queer Vegan Food and Vassar alum—critiqued the publication’s 2013 spring/Ssummer issue for its troubling tones of speciesism and sexism, offended Vassar students and alums emailed the Quarterly’s editor to express their dissent. Impressively, the staff at the magazine graciously responded by apologizing and promising a feature in the winter edition that would highlight Vassar alums involved in the animal rights movement, as well as the Vassar Animal Rights Coalition. Yay for collective activism! I can hardly wait to share with you, dear readers, the article in the Vassar Quarterly’s winter issue.

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Until next time, Ali.

Vegan MoFo #9: Caramelized Pumpkin & Onion Salad with Roasted Pumpkin Seeds and Limey Pinto Bean Dip

vegan mofo 2013

Last night’s Ferry House dinner came courtesy of my dear housemates Eric and Rocky, the latter of whom interned with Animal Place this summer and participated in the nationally publicized rescue of 3,000 hens. Eric, a phenomenal chef and gastronomic connoisseur, never fails to produce an inspired, full-flavored, and well-seasoned meal for our humble co-op, and last night’s dinner proved no exception.

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Influenced by two recipes in Peter Berley’s The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen (which Eric generously gifted to me last Valentine’s Day during Ferry House Secret Valentines), Eric and Rocky provided the house with a gorgeously presented pinto bean dip accentuated with cumin and lime, as well as a succulent, colorful salad of caramelized pumpkin and onions, parsley, and lemon juice sprinkled with roasted pumpkin seeds. (I, of course, enjoyed my dinner on a bed of spinach. A girl needs her greens.)

Pinto bean dip.

Pinto bean dip.

In other news, yesterday marked the 2013-2014 kickoff of Meatless Monday on the Vassar campus, which has thrived for three years now. In only the two hours of my tabling shift, students filled three signup sheets in enthusiastic support of the program. I mean, we did offer them pins with dancing cows on them…who could resist?

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Until next time, Ali.

Vegan MoFo #8: A Refreshingly Simple Dinner of Lentils, Brown Rice, & Sauteed Squash

vegan mofo 2013

My dinner plate, generously sprinkled with nutritional yeast.

My dinner plate, generously sprinkled with nutritional yeast.

Returning after a weekend-long hiatus to my Vegan MoFo theme of the dinners cooked and enjoyed by my 21-person on-campus vegetarian co-op, I’d like to share with you, dear readers, last night’s meal created by my close friend Gabe and new Ferry member Andrew (a merging of old and new, if you will!). These fabulous Sunday dinner cooks utilized the flavorful summer squash featured in Ferry’s weekly farm share from the Poughkeepsie Farm Project (PFP), highlighting the veggie’s succulent yet delicate flavor.

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Accompanied by simply prepared lentils and creamy short-grain brown rice, the summer squash provided an unpretentious meal, refreshing in its accentuation of the veggie’s true character. Seeking to include a leafy green in all of my meals, I tossed a handful of arugula from the farm share with a splash of olive oil and included it on my dinner plate, along with a healthy dusting of nutritional yeast (which, by the way, perfectly complements the flavor of summer squash…or of anything…like a shoe).

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In other news, my co-president Katie and I led the Vassar Animal Rights Coalition (VARC) in our first general body meeting of the semester, welcoming a surprising number of enthusiastic first-year students with an astounding set of poster-making skills. Here’s to a productive, community-building, and informative semester of outreach!

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Until next time, Ali.