Goodies for the Gluten-free Glutton
The gluten-free lifestyle seems to be all the rage these days, with more people eliminating the grains from their diets and gluten-free alternatives—including pasta, bread, and bars—popping up in restaurants and markets all over the country. Although some follow this diet voluntarily, a significant majority of individuals who don’t eat gluten have Celiac disease or other intolerances to gluten.
Wesleyan’s student body is not immune, and as diagnoses of gluten intolerance grow, the need for gluten-free alternatives has increased as well. Many may be wondering how they can have the complete college-kid experience without pigging out on huge bowls of pasta, devouring ridiculously large sandwiches, and stuffing cookies in their mouths at 3 a.m. Not to fear, my gluten-free friends. Below is a how-to guide for anyone on the gluten-free kick trying to navigate the wide world of Wesleyan eats.
Although not every dining option on campus is as gluten-free-friendly as others, it’s possible to find at least one gluten-free meal or snack at every dining location on campus. However, the Usdan Marketplace is the best option, according to many gluten-free students, especially if you have a condition that prevents you from eating anything that might have touched gluten.
Bon Appetit, the University’s food purveyor, offers an impressive amount of options for gluten-free eaters.
“I think Bon Appetit has done a lot—especially since my freshman year—to accommodate gluten-free people,” said Hannah Korevaar ’14. “The staff has been extremely receptive to the need on campus and always wants to know if more needs to be done. This year they are doing a much better job labeling food in Usdan and supplying the gluten-free section with various substitutes.”
The gluten-free section, which is located directly across from the kosher section, is said to be on an upward trajectory, with the variety and quality improving every day.
“There is one staff member who’s in charge of the gluten-free section and she’s super nice,” said Gabriel Frankel ’15. “I always see her in the section asking students what kinds of new foods they want to see.”
Frankel also raved about the baked goods, pre-made pasta dishes, and fresh blueberries and blackberries that are sometimes available.
With regard to finding gluten-free options in other sections of the marketplace, Erin Kelly ’12 warned the search can be difficult.
“It’s a kind of a dangerous place because nothing on the floor can be guaranteed gluten-free,” Kelly said. “But you can definitely get creative, especially if you use veggies from the salad bar to make sandwiches with stuff from the gluten-free section.”
Korevaar is a salad bar enthusiast as well.
“When I eat at Usdan, I get a lot of salad,” Korevaar said. “The vegan is often gluten-free, so I eat that a lot. I get pretty excited about the spicy chick peas.”
Frankel, however, is a self-proclaimed carnivore and tends to skip the vegan bar. He said his meal of choice usually comes from the grill—the gluten-free turkey burgers are a particular favorite of his—classics, or the kosher station. These make for great meals on their own, as well as good supplements to items located in the gluten-free area.
Frankel also advises that gluten-free students keep their eyes peeled for the occasional gluten-free specials offered in other stations, like stir fry in classics, corn tortillas on quesadilla night in Mongolian, or the occasional memorable special, like make-your-own-pizza with gluten-free crust.
Be warned, however, that unless an item is in the gluten-free section, it is not guaranteed to be uncontaminated.
Summerfields is a different beast entirely. It can be tricky to find gluten-free foods, since much of the menu relies on grain products. Korevaar usually opts for a salad when she and her friends hit up Summies. Taqueria options are also doable, with corn tortillas available for students interested in making their Mexican-style meals gluten-free.
Meals to Go
When in a rush, neither Summerfields nor Usdan work for a student on the go. However, Frankel pointed out the difficulty of getting snacks or a quick meal from Usdan Café, Pi, or Weshop.
“The majority of snacks and quick lunches that we eat contain gluten,” Frankel said. “Think about the last time you were on the run. You probably grabbed chips, cookies, pretzels, or some kind of breakfast bar.”
However, even though Usdan and Pi Cafés don’t offer gluten-free bread, it’s possible to eat gluten-free when you’re in a rush.
The Marketplace has a to-go option during lunch hours. If you know what you’re looking for, you can grab a box, fill it with goodies, and skedaddle to your next appointment within five minutes. If that just won’t cut it, stop downstairs at the Café. You can get a cup of soup and a salad (the fresh mozzarella and tomato is particularly delicious) or a sushi roll (try the teriyaki chicken for a very filling meal).
As far as snacks are concerned, Ronnybrook yogurt and yogurt drinks are some of the best organic products you can find at Wesleyan. They also come in a variety of flavors, all of which are gluten-free. If you’re not feeling dairy, Frankel highly recommends “NuGo Free” bars. These gluten-free snacks are packed with healthy ingredients and covered in chocolate.
“They’re amazing,” Frankel said. “You need to try one.”
Weshop, the other main option for a quick meal, has a fair number of gluten-free offerings, but the traditional “Weshop lunch,” which can be purchased with a meal instead of points, is impossible for gluten-free students. It’s pretty much a wheat-fest, with sandwich, cookie, chips, and an apple. Still, you can take my word for it that you’re not missing out on much. The pre-made sandwiches are far from delicious, and I would substitute one of those soggy masses of bread with a sushi roll any day.
As far as groceries are concerned, Weshop’s selection is so diverse that you’re better off there than many places off-campus. There are a variety of gluten-free snacks, including chips, cookies, and bars, as well as gluten-free granola, oats, pasta, macaroni and cheese, rice, bread, and a variety of frozen meals.
Frankel recommends the “Food Should Taste Good” tortilla chips, as well as the coconut macaroons. Kelly says that during her four years at Wesleyan, she often picked up picnic food at Weshop like hummus, tortilla chips, and rice cakes. She’s also a big fan of the Luna Protein Bars they sell.
As a gluten-eater, I tasted a couple gluten-free snacks to see if any of them were up to par with the mainstream alternatives and was highly impressed by Dr. Lucy’s Cookies. The cinnamon thins are particularly delicious. Also, the gluten-free Annie’s Mac & Cheese, which substitutes rice noodles, is just as delicious as any of the gluten-containing varieties.
When thinking of the Red & Black Café menu, the first thing that comes to mind are the brunch specials. If you’re going to Red & Black for brunch on the weekend, you won’t have any trouble finding something wheat-free, according to every gluten-free student I talked to. The egg dishes and smoothies, which make up the majority of the menu, are all completely gluten-free.
Lunch and dinner, however, are a little tougher. After hearing woes from the interviewees about struggling to find lunch and dinner options in Red and Black, I called the Café myself to see what they recommended for their gluten-free customers. They told me that although sandwiches aren’t offered with gluten-free bread, they do offer gluten-free soups and salads. They also suggested making one of the gourmet sandwiches into a platter.
Take the Paisano for example, which combines fresh mozzarella cheese, prosciutto, tomato, and fresh basil with a drizzle of olive oil on ciabatta bread. Without the bread, this is just like a caprese salad, with the prosciutto adding some protein and salty umami.
WesWings is a little easier, especially for meat eaters like Mr. Frankel, who frequents the eatery often and usually orders the honey-ginger wings. Meat dishes and salads can all be made without gluten, and any sandwich can be served without the bread.
For a super healthy meal that’s gluten-free to boot, ask for a piece of marinated grilled chicken without the bread, and get it instead with a small salad, hummus and vegetables, the veggie platter, or a cup of soup.
Long story short, there’s no better time to be gluten-free at Wesleyan than right now. With Bon Appétit constantly improving their variety and quality, you’re sure to find something delicious and satisfying right here on campus. That being said, if you’re ever in need of an indulgent dessert fresh out of the oven, here are some of Erin Kelly’s favorite recipes for quick, gluten-free, college cooking! All of these ingredients can be purchased at Weshop, and you don’t need to be gluten-free to try them.
2 cups packed dates, chopped, and pitted
1 cup water
2 teaspoons grated ginger
1 cup walnuts
¼ cup sesame seeds
½ cup sunflower seeds
2 ½ cups oats
½ cup oat bran
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
¼ cup honey
¼ cup neutral oil
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bring dates, water, and ginger to a simmer in a small saucepan and allow the mixture to cook while preparing other ingredients.
Toast walnuts, sesame seeds, and sunflower seeds in a dry skillet for four to six minutes, or until fragrant, and then remove them to a cutting board and chop the walnuts.
In a large bowl add the nut mixture and the remaining ingredients and mix to combine.
Remove the date mixture from the heat and stir into the oat mixture until well combined.
Press the mixture into a well-greased 9-by-13 inch baking pan and bake for 25-30 minutes or until top is slightly browned.
Allow to cool and cut into bars.
Black Bean Brownies
1 (15 oz) can/2 cups black beans, rinsed, and drained (with low or no sodium)
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup cocoa powder
4 oz unsweetened chocolate, melted
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup white sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8-by-8 inch square baking dish.
Combine the black beans, eggs, oil, cocoa powder, melted chocolate, salt, vanilla extract, and sugar in a food processor. Blend until smooth; pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish.
Bake in the preheated oven until the top is dry and the edges start to pull away from the sides of the pan, about 30 minutes.