DAVIDSON – With a little effort and imagination, Davidson College’s main cafeteria transformed into Hogwarts’ Great Hall, the famous dining spot in the Harry Potter books.
On Nov. 7, Cook Holly Tompkins’ magically themed menu delighted about 750 students and residents who climbed down a steep flight of steps and entered Harry’s wondrous world – complete with lit candles.
Tompkins, who has worked at the college for about two years, said Vail Commons generally serves about 500 people a night.
“Our boss encourages us all to do a special menu every year. And it’s usually something that has inspired you or that you draw from in your cooking,” she said. “For me, I grew up reading all the Harry Potter books and watching all the movies. In fact, I think I’ve been to every midnight showing of the Harry Potter movies. So it’s always been something that was a part of my life.”
Food is certainly an integral part of the books, whether it’s the famous Bouillabaisse dish served by the Hogwarts house elves to make the students from Beauxbatons feel more at home during the Triwizard Tournament, or just a warm bottle of butterbeer at The Three Broomsticks.
Pulling from Dinah Bucholz’s “The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook,” Tompkins created a full menu based on the series.
“I just had to figure out how to make the menu work in this big setting,” she said.
Dinner items included Beef and Guinness Stew, based on the meal Harry eats when he first arrives at Grimmauld Place, as well as Pumpkin Pasties, a favorite snack for students aboard the Hogwarts Express.
Petunia’s Pudding, the “English strawberry trifle intended to be served to the Masons before Dobby destroyed it” in “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets,” also made the cut, according to the menu.
And no meal could be complete without Pumpkin Juice.
Tompkins said that Hagrid's Treacle Fudge was “super, super sweet but so delicious.”
Davidson students wore gold-and-scarlet Gryffindor scarves, while the dining services’ staff donned black robes and witches’ hats.
Large, hairy spiders – members of Aragog’s family – affixed themselves to the walls, and the melody of “Hedwig’s Theme” and other songs from the movies played in the background.
While diners waited for their meals, they could snack on roasted pumpkin seeds toasted in cayenne pepper and paprika and watch scenes from the movies flashed on the walls.
Davidson had 80 pounds of beef and 100 pounds of potatoes on hand for the stew and Onion Garlic Mashed Potato dishes.
“I’m glad it was such a popular event and that so many people showed up,” Tompkins said.