Every Christmas, Carla Bullock's family gathers in Athens to have brunch of fresh fruit, grits, quiche Lorraine, coffee, juice and a particular favorite of Carla's daughter, Bridget: orange pecan coffee cake.
"Every year, my mom gives me the task of mixing the glaze," said Bridget Bullock. "And after I drizzle it on the cake, I always lick the bowl. My mom is a great cook and she bakes a lot of tasty cakes, but this one reminds me of Christmas. It's special because of the memories it evokes."
Carla didn't tell Bridget which brunch recipe she entered in UGA's 19th annual Taste of Home contest, in which parents submit students' all-time favorites; she wanted to surprise her daughter. Out of 1,000 entries, the Bullocks' coffee cake made the cut and will be served along with around 120 other winning dishes at breakfast, lunch and dinner on Dec. 6 at the Village Summit and the Bolton, Oglethorpe and Snelling dining commons. The event is open to everybody, and regular meal prices apply-$6.90 for breakfast, $8.65 for lunch and $12 for dinner. The coffee cake will be served for lunch at the Bolton Dining Commons.
"I was excited," Carla Bullock said of finding out her coffee cake was a winner. Not only will the dish be prepared for the dinner, but Bullock also received a commemorative plate and a converted recipe that will serve 8,000 people-about the number of students who participate in UGA's meal plan.
"That was cool," she said, seeing the modifications on paper--5 ounces of sugar changed to four 18-pound bags, and 8 ounces of cream cheese changed to 111 5-ounce tubs. "Pretty neat!"
Taste of Home is UGA's food services' most popular event, said Mike Floyd, director of food services.
"I hear more comments from students' parents on this event than anything else," he said, adding that extended family members will often travel great distances to make the dinner. "There's such appreciation that they're being recognized."
Each year, food services' chefs, managers and nutritionists sift through the recipes, categorizing them by dish and building possible menus.
"There are always great recipes every year, and there are always recipes each year that get incorporated into our standard menu," said Floyd. Such dishes as éclair squares and poppy seed chicken have come into regular rotation after debuting at Taste of Home.
The event's popularity is due to more than just a great meal, Floyd said-it's all about family connections.
"It's a way for the family to share something very personal," he said. "When you think about it, dining is a very personal connection people share. Sometimes parents will write comments (on the recipes), and we'll get ‘this is a family tradition we do every Christmas' or ‘this was passed down by my grandmother.' It's connecting and allows students to make a contribution to the University of Georgia."
Floyd understands the power of those family-food connections. His own "taste of home" is the memory of growing up under the influence of his mother's homemade strawberry candies and his grandmother's well-known sweet rolls, apple turnovers and biscuits made fresh daily.
"Our memories of the recipes are of the taste, but also of the love of that person preparing something special for you," he said.