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Sweet tea

“In a sense, it’s reaffirming the act of saying grace and acknowledging that food is one absolutely indispensable way in which humans take from creation,” adds Davis, who is professor of Bible and practical theology.

“We don’t have a choice about taking from natural resources, which we call creations of God. However, we do have a choice as to how we do it. We can do it in ways, for example, that cut down on petroleum dependence, that support small farmers, entrepreneurs and our regional economy, and that do not destroy God’s creation.”

By late 2005, the café was a work-in-progress, with daily challenges for everyone involved. By December, the crew at The Refectory began to concentrate on marketing the restaurant, and people responded in droves to fliers and to weekly menus provided online and in campus publications.

The Refectory Cafe

In January, The Refectory—named for traditional monastic and college eateries with long wooden tables for sharing and talkingócelebrated its grand opening. Now, the café serves more than 400 people per day, with 95 percent of those ordering food actually sitting down and eating there, according to Laura Hall, owner of Bon Vivant Catering, which operates the café and provides catering services for divinity school events.

“Vegetarians and vegans have found us—they are coming from across campus and the medical center. One of the wonderful byproducts of this project is that we’re seeing people from all over the Duke community who, otherwise, might not have a reason to come here,” Hall says. She’s especially proud of the daily Student’s Special, which on this day includes half a wrap sandwich, a cup of soup or chili or a salad, and a dessert of either fresh fruit or something sweet for $5.75. (There are free refills on the homemade organic soups; Musser says her favorite is butternut squash.)

The Refectory, which is open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., offers both indoor and outdoor seating. A potted herb garden on the terrace will allow diners to see the growth of ingredients used in the food they’re eating. Grapevine murals adorn the walls inside, and a small rack near the door contains educational pamphlets about farming and other aspects of the food industry.

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