My parents’ college reunions fall on the same weekend every year. One parent can never visit the other’s, and generally my dad takes the kids to his because we live only an hour from his alma mater. When I was six, my mom decided to take me along on the five hour drive from Philadelphia to Amherst. I can’t say that I remember the reunion itself, but what I do remember is Northampton. More importantly, I remember a specific part of Northampton.
The reunion had finished and were on our way home. I was exhausted and immediately dozed off, lulled to sleep by the moving car. After what felt like hours, but must really have been only 20 minutes, my mom was nudging me awake, prodding me to leave the comfort of my warm seat. Slowly I got out, rubbing my eyes, yawning and probably about to whine crankily about having to wake up. However, my mom quickly ushered me into a small café on Main Street, distracting me from all possible griping.
This past weekend, I gasped in surprise as I walked into that same café, smack in the middle of Northampton and tucked away on Main Street. I exclaimed excitedly to my friend that I had been here before! I knew this café from so many years ago! I remembered the worn wooden floors and the cramped entry hall lined with old paintings and photographs in ornate and antique frames that somehow reminded me of Harry Potter.
My mom had recommended that I visit the place and mentioned that I had gone once, but I didn’t quite believe her. Suddenly, walking through the compact entryway and into the airy, bright main room with the high ceilings and old-fashioned fans, as well as the rustic bar and juice maker, I remembered the Haymarket Café and Juice Joint.
My roommate, who had visited Haymarket more recently and knew the lay of the land, led me downstairs to a dim room with low ceilings, comfortable and intimate seating and candlelit tables. We quickly dropped our backpacks, slid into two seats, abandoned all hope of doing any schoolwork, and scanned the menu. She and I scoured the list, noting the various smoothies, omelets, breakfast sandwiches, pancakes, tofu-vegan scramble and the oatmeal. Soon the waitress took our orders, and we sat back, awaiting a filling and relaxing brunch.
My friend’s plate arrived first, and my stomach began rumbling. Clearly, the Haymarket Café knows how to prepare oatmeal. Topping her bowl of creamy grains was a good portion of homemade granola and fruit compote. She dug in gleefully as I watched enviously.
When my Bourbon French toast arrived, I stared at the beautiful presentation. Alongside four sections of French toast sat an artful arrangement of bananas, strawberries, grapefruit, grapes and apples.
Then my hunger took over. I quickly slathered a bit of the crème fraîche onto a piece of toast, following that with a sizeable drizzle of REAL maple syrup. With the first bite, I knew that I would enjoy my meal and return for others. Although there was not so much of the cinnamon that I love (which I probably love too much), the crème fraîche provided a slight tang that perfectly balanced the saccharine syrup and gave the toast a sense of freshness. I chewed quickly, working to make it through my first bite and have another as soon as possible. However, I appreciated the texture, noticing that the slight crunch and toughness of the toast provided a satisfying sensation.
In between bites of toast topped with crème fraîche and drips of maple syrup, I contentedly snacked on the fruit, savoring the freshness and lightness of the entire meal. Rather than feeling like I was eating a rich dish, laden with extra butter, I sensed that I was savoring a satisfying, filling and yet delicate meal. Finally, I sat back, nursing my bottomless cup of coffee as I surveyed the empty plate. My roommate and I shared an agreeable glance, noting that neither of us could be any happier.
Shortly our waitress arrived with our check, and my friend and I exclaimed in surprise. Our simple but extremely satisfying meal of oatmeal, French toast, coffee and iced peppermint tea had only cost us $16; $20 with the tip included. Quickly I grabbed a menu and scanned the items, noting that no breakfast dish reached $7 and no lunch or dinner plate reached $10. Needless to say, my roommate and I agreed that we would be returning.
We eventually pulled out our homework, intending to begin studying, and soon decided to relocate to the upper half of the café. We made our way upstairs, noticing the squeal of the milk frother and catching a few notes of the barely audible music playing in the background. Soon my roommate and I had pulled together two tables along the row of seats bordering the room and were sitting on the worn but comfortable cushions.
After a few moments, I walked to the counter, ogling the pastries as I did and found myself craving some carrot cake or red velvet cupcakes. However, I couldn’t eat another thing after gorging myself on French toast, so I ordered one of their fresh, in-house roasted and brewed Fair Trade coffees. Soon I was working contentedly, sipping my coffee and enjoying the comfortable and sunny atmosphere of the café.
As we left, my roommate ordered juice, and we watched as the woman put multiple fruits and vegetables through a large juicer. I anticipate my own order of juice when I return to the Haymarket Café and Juice Joint. This small café and restaurant creates the perfect atmosphere and venue in which to study or enjoy a relaxing meal. I cannot thank my mother enough for recommending it. I am also not surprised that this is what I remember from visiting Northampton and Amherst when I was young.