Christine Walker helps make students' mornings a little brighter.
Gloved hands fold a disk of fried batter over strawberries or bananas or Nutella (It’s almost always Nutella), and another bleary-eyed student swaps a smile with the Marquis Hall Crepe Lady.
This time the student is Vicky Rigby-Hall ’19, who is spent, but ducked into the dining hall for a little of the magic elixir of one of Lafayette’s most auspicious new freshmen – the one most Leopard’s know by the name of her breakfast treat.
“Relaxed today?” says the Crepe Lady, smiling over her twin sizzling burners at Rigby-Hall’s baggy sweatshirt.
“I’m so tired,” Rigby-Hall says.
The Crepe Lady groans. She gets it.
“One more class and I get to go back to bed,” Rigby-Hall says.
The Crepe Lady slides the spatula’s metal blade between burner and batter, then folds it three times over the stuff she knew Rigby-Hall wanted – bananas, Nutella (of course) and whipped cream. Rigby-Hall didn’t have to ask. The Crepe Lady knew.
Christine Walker, matriarch of a family who farms 36 acres in rural Moore Township in Northampton County, has since August been Lafayette’s superhero of breakfast and lunch confections. When the newly remodeled Marquis Hall opened, it included Lafayette’s first crepe station. Walker is the first Crepe Lady.
“I think it’s funny they call her Crepe Lady,” says Sarah Fried, general manager of Dining Services.
She’s seen the name on social media sites like Yikyak.com. And on comment cards. Students post comment cards on cork boards in Lafayette’s food facilities that offer suggestions, but often offer praise like “Hey, thanks for the great omelet.”
During Dining Services Appreciation Day in November, the bulletin board in Marquis was plastered with comment cards – many for the lady with the batter bowl, the spatula and the smile.
Walker wasn’t there that day. She’d taken two days off to handle a death in her family. When she returned, she thumbed through dozens of cards covered in college student scrawl.
“Thank you for the crepe station,” read one with a little heart and a smiley face for emphasis, “especially morning crepe lady for getting me through my morning!”
“The lady who makes my crepes, she makes my mornings enjoyable. Also all the other dining staff. Thank you!” read another.
“She’s great,” Fried says. “She’s warm and fuzzy. The kids love her.”
And that’s a big part of being a crepe lady. For many students, Lafayette is their first home sans guardian. A little warmth can help them adjust, and many staff members help ease the transition.
“We often see [students] more than anybody else,” Fried says. “Seven days a week, sometimes.”
Crepes are a hit. The line for Walker’s pancake envelopes often reaches from the serving area into Marquis’ sea of tables. Even during slow times, Walker’s burners are constantly browning batter.
Walker drops big dollops onto her burners for students. Faculty and staff usually ask for little crepes. Using a wooden tool shaped like a capital T, she makes circles into the batter to spread it wide, before she flips it and fills it with goodies.
Nutella, the hazelnut and chocolate flavored spread, is the most popular ingredient. Nearly every student seems to request it. Walker blazes through tub after tub.
“You’re sounding better,” Crepe Lady says, spreading a healthy dab of Nutella on a crepe for Amanda Baildon ’19, whose voice is dusky with the cold she’s fighting. Baildon visits the Crepe Lady two times a week.
“Yeah,” Baildon says. “Just in time for finals.”
“Aw,” Crepe Lady says, handing over a big folded pancake. “They’re almost over.”
It’s not so different from family breakfasts at Walker’s house. She makes crepes at home in an iron skillet.
Once a student said he wanted a blueberry and a banana. Crepe Lady wrapped up one banana and one blueberry. She heard the student laughing all the way out at his table.
“Make somebody laugh,” the Crepe Lady says. “That’s important.”