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   Date: 4/25/13 Bookmark and Share

No Gluten? No Problem in Chase Dining Room

By Anne Berman ‘15

Heaven in a Wax Bag (gluten-free)

3 c. confectioners sugar
¾ c. cocoa
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. chocolate chips
4 large egg whites
1 ½ c. pecans (optional)

Mix in bowl: sugar, cocoa, salt and chocolate chips. Add whisked egg whites and blend just until mixed. Heat oven to 325°F. Drop tablespoon-size dough onto parchment-lined pans about 3" apart, and bake for 20-25 minutes. Let cool and store in an airtight container. Enjoy!

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It all started eight years ago with a couple of Smith students who had celiac disease, a condition that includes a severe intolerance to gluten, a protein in foods processed from wheat. Because of their intolerance, the students requested meals with dishes containing no wheat.

In the years since, gluten sensitivity has grown well beyond celiac disease, and medical experts have discovered that more people suffer from the sensitivity than initially suspected. For those with gluten sensitivity, health typically improves when they remove wheat from their diet.

Now, eight years since those two students made their requests, some 50 students at Smith follow strictly gluten-free diets.

Thanks to Tina Atkinson, a chef in Chase dining room, students with gluten sensitivity have plenty to eat.

Thanks to dining staff members in Chase dining room, who have met the need to produce daily menus of wheat-free items, those students have a place to eat on campus.

“Things you wouldn’t ever think of as having wheat in it—like soy milk, for example—we’ve had to substitute and pay attention to,” says Tina Atkinson, second cook in Chase dining room, who, along with head chef Diane Warren, has helped develop a menu in recent years with items similar to regular house dining room menus—and with scumptious desserts like Heaven in a Wax Bag. She keeps a regular supply of gluten-free ingredients on hand to cook with.

Creating well-balanced meals for students with gluten sensitivity, and other dietary restrictions in some cases, requires a good deal of creativity and hard work, say the chefs.

“I did a lot of research in my own kitchen to try to find out what exactly makes a good cookie or muffin, and what can I substitute to keep it that way,” says Atkinson. “It has been a lot of trial and error, but also rewarding when I figure out a menu.”

Warren and Atkinson say their goal has been to make sure these dining alternatives taste delicious while looking normal, to help students with special diets feel comfortable in choosing those items, and have plenty to eat.

“Parents are always so worried whether their kids with special diets are going to get enough to eat when they’re here,” says Warren. “We spend a lot of time on the phone with them before they get here promising them that, yes, we make a huge effort to make sure that not only are their kids going to eat well, but also that their food looks so normal and that none of their classmates are going to look at what’s on their plate and say ‘What is that? Why are you eating something weird?’”

Rick Rubin, area coordinator of dining halls, says he has received a lot of positive feedback about the efforts of the staff in Chase dining room.

“Parents with gluten allergies who eat at the dining halls during commencement and parents’ weekend have remarked how impressed they were with the options and how easy it is to be gluten-free here,” he says. “A lot of parents have thanked us at graduation for making sure their students ate well.”

Ariane Kelsey ’15, who can’t eat gluten, says she is appreciative of the wheat-free dining options. She’d like to see more gluten-free items available in the Campus Center Café, she says, and other dining halls.

For now, the Chase menu offers plenty to eat for the gluten-sensitive—such as Heaven in a Wax Bag.

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