Students with dietary restrictions voice their concerns about the dining menu

With sixty percent of American adults having at least one food allergy, dietary restriction, or religious restriction, Chatham prides itself on catering to students that fit into this demographic. Chatham also heavily reflects on how these lifestyles affect the environment. Anderson Dining Hall uses a compost system; the napkins and straws are biodegradable, and, since 2009, Chatham has gotten rid of using trays.

However, some students who fall into the category of having dietary restrictions of any kind still often find themselves struggling. Monii Peters, a sophomore student, has multiple restrictions that Chatham fails to cover.

“I have a very restrictive diet now and am extremely limited at both Anderson and Cafe Rachel,” Peters says, “If it doesn’t have nuts, it has soy or dairy and vice versa. Those of us with food allergies and sensitivities are struggling to eat while wasting money on a meal plan we don’t use. That’s the story of my life.”

Rob Coyne, who became the General Manager of Parkhurst Dining Services at Chatham in February of this year, has been working with the Chatham community to make changes to the meal experience to accommodate new students and make the dining services more efficient.

“[The meal experience] is based on what the students tell me. I encourage anybody who presents to me with dietary restrictions to let us know that they have those restrictions so we can work with them,” he said. “We can’t offer every item for every student every day based on everyone’s dietary restrictions. There just wouldn’t be enough food for everyone to like. So if we have something they are allergic to, if we have a breaded chicken, and they’re allergic to gluten, they are a celiac, they let the server know, the Chef and we’ll make sure they get something to eat. I guess the best way to put it is the student meal experience is what they want to make of it.”

However, students such as Fiorella Nicoloso, a senior who is a pre-diabetic, say it’s not that easy.

“When I’ve tried to bring up health related things, nobody has emailed me back, ever. Which is frustrating, when I’m just trying to be healthy,” said Nicoloso.

Lynzy Groves, a junior student with a gluten allergy, agrees and says she’s also been trying to see change for nearly three years. When Groves started as a first-year student at Chatham, she was a size 4. Since then, she says she loses around 10 pounds every fall when she comes back to school due to lack of options. She is now a size 00 without attempts to diet or exercise.

           “Having a gluten allergy makes eating at Anderson very difficult. I have been trying for the three years that I have been here to get more gluten free (GF) options at all of the meals,” Groves said. “Unfortunately, it has only gotten worse every year. Every time I or any of my friends who aren’t GF write a comment card asking for more GF options, we usually get negative feedback with the statement that there aren’t enough people with gluten allergies to make changes to the menu.”

“This is ridiculous,” Groves continued. “I am not asking for everything to be GF. I just want to eat something other than the salad bar and cooked vegetables. Every week I waste between 3 and 5 meals on my plan just because Anderson doesn’t offer anything that I can eat other than lettuce and veggies. One cannot survive on salad alone.”

Coyne admitted that, unless the Chatham population in need of this special menu presents itself, there will not be much of a menu change.

“If I know that within our student population I’ve got 35 percent people that are celiac, that gives me [the ability] to focus on the menu a little more.” said Coyne. “But for 2 to 3 percent of people it’s easier to do one on one instead of trying to design a menu around 4 or 5 people when we’re feeding 400 at lunch, 300 to 400 at dinner.”

“I am lactose intolerant, allergic to radishes and mushrooms and have an intolerance to gluten,” said Kelly Nestman, a senior who is also allergic to all seeds and nuts. “At Anderson, it is very hard for me to find things to eat that fill me up and are healthy. To find food that is filling I find myself bringing Lactaid pills to every meal, which costs $18 for 60 of them, and I take two every time I eat dairy and that adds up quickly. Or I have to eat gluten, which then makes me sick later. While yes there are arguments that there is a salad bar, it is rarely changed, and the food sits out all day, and I constantly find flies on the things on the bar. There is a ‘gluten free’ section of items, but every time I check they are stale, old, and sometimes moldy. I have had such a hard time being able to eat a meal there that is healthy and doesn’t make me sick.”

Though it’s not clear exactly how many students it will take for there to be a meal change for students with a gluten or wheat allergy, more common restrictions such as vegan and vegetarian have more attention. Even Chatham’s Office of Sustainability expresses that many students fall into this category. The Sustainability Culture page states, “The dining hall provides vegan and vegetarian selections at all meals to accommodate the large population that prefers this low-carbon diet, as well as to reduce the campus footprint.”

The dining hall contains a deli for sandwiches, a station for pizza or single serve dinner dishes, a grill, a bar for the main entrees, a Vegan and Vegetarian bar, a salad bar, and, during lunch, Casey’s Kitchen. However, with the food that is currently in Anderson, students say that it’s not quality, and there are few options.

“I’ll eat cucumbers and fruit as a meal because I have no other options,” said Peters, “[Chatham’s] ‘vegetarian’ and ‘vegan’ options are such a joke. It’s always squash and pasta.”

A typical meal on the vegan and vegetarian bar consists of cooked pasta and marinara sauce, and an entree that is usually Middle Eastern such as baba ganoush or falafel.

Nestman agrees that there isn’t much when it comes to the options for those who do not eat any animal byproducts, whether by choice or for medical reasons.

“The vegan options are not high quality and seem to be considered an afterthought with whatever ingredients that are extra or lying around,” said Nestman.

“All too often [the vegetables] are very overcooked or very undercooked, and when that is one of my only ‘healthy’ options available, this is incredibly frustrating,” said Nicoloso.

Nadia Frock, a first-year student, is also frustrated with what is considered an acceptable meal.  “Half the time the vegetarian soup isn’t actually vegetarian, and they think that cheese is a meal.”

“The cafeteria is our only option because we don’t have a stove,” said another first year Melanie Landsittel, who is a vegetarian who lives on upper campus in Fickes residence hall. She is also a part of the Vegan/Vegetarian committee. “The quality of the vegetarian food is not good.”

For those residents who live on lower campus, in graduate housing, and are commuters, the meal experience can be very different from upper campus residents. Instead of eating every meal in the dining hall, they often only experience one or two meals in Anderson. Some don’t experience any meals at all.

For Bethany Hagensen, a commuter, she has the option to eat at Anderson but chooses not to.

“I live off campus and ate one meal at Anderson one time,” she said. “I was told there were vegan options when I toured the campus last spring, but the only vegan thing on the menu was the salad bar. I wouldn’t complain if there weren’t students locked into a meal plan that have to eat three meals a day, every day basically from an Eat’n’Park quality salad bar. More options, please. How about putting a few vegan and allergen-free entrees that change routinely on the regular menu?”

There has also been an issue in the dining hall where, on nights when there are specials such as a taco bar, French fry extravaganza, or a hot dog bar, the food is put on the designated vegetarian/vegan bar. Coyne says that in these circumstances, it really comes down to space.

“That’s kind of the way it’s been done here for a while now. While we always keep a vegan or a vegetarian option over there, when we do bars and things, the space is very limited for what we have and what we are able to put out,” he said. “You know, I don’t have an additional area where I can set up another bar and put some of those things so yes, there are times when we need to [repurpose the space].”

Having non-vegan and vegetarian food on this bar happens to be a factor within another frustration of students with restrictions and even students without: labeling. An issue that has been brought up amongst students is the labeling, or lack thereof, in the dining hall.  There are small signs that state whether a dish contains nuts, fish, soy, etc. or is vegan, vegetarian, or gluten-free approved. However, when staff inappropriately use these signs, students with restrictions get the worst of it.

“Anderson needs to label the dishes with allergens or applicable dietary restrictions. I know a lot of people that expect vegetarian food in the vegetarian serving area. Instead, there are salads or sauces with alcohol, meat, or pork,” said Maryem Aslam, a junior commuter student who relies on labeling for religious purposes.

“The major problem with Anderson is that they do not understand what GF means,” said Groves, “Many items are mislabeled if they ever are labeled, and items in the GF section are actually not GF. Rice Krispies contain malt, which is wheat/gluten. And, the Rice Chex were mixed with Corn Chex in the same cereal dispenser which makes it no longer GF.  Gluten allergies are a real thing. Don’t write it off as a diet until you get violently ill with an allergic reaction from eating something that was mislabeled. If Anderson took wheat and gluten allergies as seriously as they take nut allergies, the world would be a better place.”

The meal restrictions don’t stop at Vegan/Vegetarian. Nicoloso says she just recently learned she was pre-diabetic and tried to reach out to the dining hall over the summer but has yet to be able to get in touch with anyone.

“Hardly any, if any options in Anderson for any meal are diabetic-friendly. Basically no options in Cafe Rachel are,” she said. “Having recently received a diagnosis of pre-diabetes, I’m hyper-aware of this, and I’m really upset that I basically can’t use my meals to eat things that I physically should be eating.”

She says one of her main struggles is not being able to know the nutrition facts of the food she’s eating which forces her to take risks when trying to watch her sugar intake. Coyne says Parkhurst is working on it.

“As a company, Parkhurst Dining is working on a system that may not roll out until the middle of spring. There will be a website students can go to that will list all the stuff that we do on a daily basis,” he said. ”All the salad bar stuff will be listed there, all the different types of cereal options will be listed there. We’re also working on trying to plan our cycle menu. As long as the menus are in our database, there will be limited nutritional information about it.”

Coyne also says that Anderson is already making moves in cutting sugar.

“As a diabetic myself, I have to watch sugar and what kind of intake and what goes into my body,” he said. “They can always ask us, they can ask myself, they can ask any of the supervisors, they can ask Chef Dan. We generally tend not to use a lot of sugar in what we do depending on the cuisine.  A lot of the Asian sauces are higher in maybe sugar. They do use some things in the sauces, but we tend not to use just sugar as an additive to sweeten something. We have a few pre-made dressings that we use. They tend to be a little higher in sugar like the raspberry vinaigrette. The low fat [dressings], yeah they take the fat out of it, but they make up for the flavor by adding a ton of sugar to it. Actually, along the salad bar, they have little stickers with [nutrition information] about most of the things in the salad bar.  The best thing is just to ask, and then we can give them the answers they need.”

Unfortunately, this doesn’t address foods such as ketchup, potatoes, bread, fruits, and most carbs that are problematic for diabetics. However, Coyne does speak to the students who may feel like they don’t have an option at the dining hall.   

“Talk to us. I don’t want anyone leaving here hungry,” he said. “Like I said to start, we can make something differently so that they don’t feel singled out.”

Coyne reiterated that there are too many types of restrictions to be able to cater to them all on a daily basis.

“Like I said, if we tried to do everyone’s onesy twosy dietary restrictions there wouldn’t be any place for food.”

Coyne says that he is working with Chatham Student Government to get more Vegan/Vegetarian options for students. He also says students can send in recipes.

“Right now Chef Dan plans most of the vegan and vegetarian options when he does his weekly menu planning. We are working with CSG to create a new vegan and vegetarian committee to get some more feedback. I know there’s been some concerns out there. We’re hoping to get that committee started sooner. If somebody gives us a recipe and says ‘hey, would you try that’ Chef Dan always does that. We’re definitely open to trying things and if they’ve got ideas for us [we’ll try them]. We want to plan around what the students want, some ideas on what they want to see. I know we’ve done that in the past.”

Maryann Fix, the head of the Vegan/Vegetarian Committee for CSG, confirms that the dining staff is working with her to create a better meal experience.

“I have been working a lot with Rob and Chef Dan, and they generally try to make sure I can find something to eat in Anderson. But I think a lot more could be done to meet the needs of gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan individuals,” said Fix. “For example, Pitt has a whole station dedicated only to gluten free including a gluten-free grill and a different dish every day. We should have something like that because something that is gluten-free can also be easily vegan or vegetarian, like a quinoa dish.”

Though Fix compares the Anderson Dining Hall with the University of Pittsburgh’s Market Central, she makes it clear that she is not looking for anything out of the ordinary.

“None of us are asking for special treatment; we’re just asking to get what we pay for like everybody else does,” she said. “Just because someone has a dietary restriction, whether it is their choice or not, we are paying for these meals, and we should be able to find something that we are happy with at any time. We shouldn’t have to eat such similar things every day, either.”

Coyne welcomes students to bring their concerns to his office in the back of the dining hall. There are also comment cards in the dining hall that receive feedback and staff members who will provide students with something if specifically asked for such as a bowl of pineapples.

A student’s meal experience has a huge impact on their college experience. With studies, work, and co-curricular activities, having to worry about what one is going to eat should be the last thing on the list of priorities. Some would say that the current ways of the dining hall wouldn’t be so hurtful if the university didn’t advertise a diverse menu.

On the Chatham University and Parkhurst Dining Services webpage, Chatham says, “Parkhurst Dining Services understands that dining is an integral part of the college experience. That’s why we offer students a number of delicious and healthful dining options. Our dining plans provide the ultimate in flexibility and offer something to satisfy even the most discriminating tastes.”

Even in the tours for prospective undergraduate and graduate students, tour guides are told to point out that Chatham has wonderful options for everyone.

“We definitely have to say that [Chatham] has vegan, vegetarian, and kosher options for every meal when we take a tour through Anderson. It’s on the script,” said McKenzie Gordon, a former student worker at the Admissions Office.

The current system has a lack of options, mislabels food, and causes students to alter the state of their health. Many students ask, what will it take to make a change?

“They need to start considering the ramifications of their actions because someone could die,” said Groves, “I’m not joking.”

Foodie on the Half Shell: Top 3 Delivery Joints in Pittsburgh

I order out more than I’d like to admit. At this point, I even know the delivery guys’ names. The GrubHub app is my best friend at least once a week.

Unfortunately, Pittsburgh doesn’t have the greatest selection of delivery options. There are about 50 crappy pizza places, a couple vague Asian places, and maybe one Indian restaurant that delivers. Most of the food is pretty bad, or really average. It’s as if they make a restaurant specifically made for delivery and they know we have no options and they’ll make money no matter how bad they are.

Honestly, all of the pizza tastes the same, too. They all get their dough and sauce pre-made from the same food distributor. It drives me crazy that delivery places won’t take more pride in what they do.

Creative and quality food is still desired in a delivery setting. Don’t get me wrong, though, I still pay for the convenience of it all. Because I know we don’t all love to cook at home or go out and get something ourselves, I have made an official “Top 3 Delivery Joints in Pittsburgh” complete with different genres of food and my favorite dishes!

Thai Hana: This restaurant delivers Thai and Japanese food straight to your door. You can enjoy curry dishes, pad Thai, and lots and lots of sushi. They have never been late to deliver food, and they have never messed up one of my orders. One of my favorite dishes to have delivered would be their Spider Roll from their sushi menu. This sushi roll is made with tempura fried soft shell crab, asparagus, and avocado. I pretty much love any sushi that comes with tempura fried anything, though. Thai Hana’s sushi is delicious, and is as good as most places around Pittsburgh. If you are looking for the real deal with grade A fresh fish, this isn’t the place for you, but if you want some tasty sushi with spicy creamy sauce drizzled all over it, then this is your place! Their Basil Fried Rice is also on point, and I would even say possibly the best in the Burgh’s delivery world.

Beta Bites: Beta Bites is my favorite place for “healthy” delivery food. It has Moroccan influences throughout its menu, but also will deliver your usual wings and fries. If the restaurant is a Moroccan restaurant, though, order their Moroccan food. One of my favorite dishes from here is their falafel salad that is served with spinach, real creamy feta, and the usual other salad fixings. Their falafel isn’t the best (it’s a little dry), but it still tastes like falafel and that will do. It comes with five nice sized balls, and is definitely a great amount of food. The BEST dish on their menu is from the “hot bar” part of their menu. Any of the dishes from the hot bar are delicious, but I enjoy the chicken with a side of vegetables, lentils, and rice. This is a lot of food complete with three spiced chicken breasts and scoops of whatever side you pick. Other options for your sides include mac and cheese, and a white bean dish that is native to Morocco. Any of their food is delicious, though, but if it looks like it has Moroccan influences in the description, it is almost guaranteed to be good.

Genoas: Now, what makes Genoas so good is their consistency. They are open all day up until 2 a.m. on the weekdays and 3 a.m. on the weekends. This is perfect when you are hungry at home after a party or a long day. Their food is the usual Italian inspired delivery joint complete with pizzas, subs, and calzones. Their subs are huge, and you really can’t go wrong with a spicy Italian. Their jalapeno poppers are so tasty, and so are their Parmesan and garlic wings.

The Chatham Dining Experience: Where’s Casey?!

This year at Anderson, Chatham has upped their dining services tremendously.  Much of this has to do with the expansion of Bravisimo’s dining experiences. During lunch hours, Bravisimo features different dishes to tempt your taste buds. Korean tacos, build-your-own broth bowls, firecracker shrimp, and many other unique foods have been prepared by the beloved cook, Casey Haughey. For the first few months of the semester, Casey became a familiar sight to most students, jamming out to music while whipping up something spectacular.

However, lately, Casey has been absent from the Bravissimo scene and students have begun to question: Where is Casey? During the past few weeks, while Casey was missing from the dining room, the question arose as to whether he had left Chatham.  When he was around the kitchen, curiosity struck.

“Casey has been promoted to our PM sous chef position. This is why he has not been at the Bravisimo station,” said Rob Coyne, general manager of dining services at Chatham.

According to Coyne, over the past few weeks, Casey has been cooking and overseeing the kitchen at night, while they’ve been searching for a steady replacement.  

“This is a great opportunity for him,” said Coyne.

Monday, November 9, Casey was seen at Bravisimo one last time. He was training his replacement Megan Elstner, an Art Institute Culinary School graduate.  

Photo: Destiny Reber

Photo: Destiny Reber

“She is just starting her career in the kitchen and this is a great place for [her to] learn and expand her culinary knowledge and also bring some new ideas from the culinary school to us,” said Coyne.

“I used to work at a bar, and as much as I liked it, I needed to expand my horizons,” said Elstner. “Chatham was something completely different than the bar scene.  I’m excited to cook different things each day instead of sticking to the same menu.”

“We all care about serving the best food possible to the students [and] staff,” said Haughey. “As for Megan, our new Bravo cook, she will be just fine. [She] just has to get a rhythm, and I’m sure the students and staff will welcome her as they all did me.”

While Casey and Megan make the transition into their new experiences in the Chatham kitchen, students are told to expect one hundred percent from the kitchen staff. Their goal is to prepare food the same way they would want to eat it and to provide delicious meals. The Chatham Community is also to expect more gluten-free options in the near future.

“Everyone in our kitchen gives their best to provide a welcoming dining experience.” said Haughey.

“I think the students should look forward to having a good laugh when they’re at my station. I love making someone’s day because I know that college can be stressful,” said Elstner.

Students and staff alike are curious to see what it is that Haughey, Elstner, and the rest of the Anderson crew will be bringing to the table. Literally.

Foodie on the Half Shell: Eating for the season

Many connote the cooler seasons with a lack of fresh produce that is available to eat. Well, that may be true during the sub zero winters that we have been having, but so far we have had a beautiful November and there is still plenty of seasonal and local foods to cook and eat.

It’s important to eat seasonally, because if we buy food that is out of season that means that it is being shipped in from far away. The amount of miles that is between where the food is grown and to where it is eaten or sold is called food miles. A large amount of food miles causes a scary amount of gas emissions into the air, which is bad for the environment.  

Some of my favorite November foods are Brussels sprouts, winter squash, and beets. These may sound like intimidating foods to some, but I can assure you that if you try out the recipes that I created, you will be pleasantly surprised.

Brussels Sprout and Bacon Salad: Heat the oven at 350 degrees. Clean one pound of Brussels sprouts by peeling off the first layer of leaves and cutting the rough bottom off. Cut large Brussels in half and leave smaller ones whole. Toss in a little olive oil, salt, and pepper. Put in ovenproof pan and bake for about 20-25 minutes or until crispy and dark and green. Crisp up a few slices of bacon and crumble them up. When Brussels are done, toss in a bowl with the bacon crumbles along with a few dashes of balsamic vinegar. Keep this dish delicious by not overdoing it on the oil and vinegar and topping it all off with Parmesan cheese.

Maple Roasted Acorn Squash: Heat oven to 375 degrees. Cut one large acorn squash in half and clean out the seeds. Then, cut the halves into about one-inch slices, so they should be little half circles. No need to cut off the skin, it is awesomely edible. Now, make a marinade with one tablespoon of olive oil, one tablespoon of soy sauce, one teaspoon of Dijon mustard, two tablespoons of maple syrup (the real stuff), and some salt and pepper. Rub those slices down with this stuff and bake in an ovenproof pan for about 25 minutes. They should be super tender to the touch.

Beet “Caprese”: You will need two large beets or three smaller ones. Heat up two cups of balsamic vinegar and a quarter cup of sugar in a pot and stir till the sugar is dissolved. Boil beets in water until they are tender and their rough skin slides off easily. When the sugar has dissolved into the vinegar and the beets are tender and have their skins removed, shut off heat to the vinegar mixture and place beets into the pot. Let sit for 30 minutes. If they are not entirely submerged, rotate halfway through. When finished, slice the beets into about quarter inch circles. Layer with fresh mozzarella and fresh basil, and drizzle balsamic reduction on top with a little salt and pepper.

Foodie on the Half Shell: Processed Meats

Up until I was 11, I was homeschooled on the llama farm where I grew up with my sister and my mom as my best friends. I began private Catholic school when I was going into sixth grade. I was already the weirdo who thought gay people deserved equal rights and that women should be able to be priests.

To make matter worse, the same year I also decided that eating meat was barbaric, and I became a vegetarian and sometimes pescatarian for the next 12 years. As I sat there in the cafeteria with all of those rude little sheep, I ate the same sandwich every day: avocado, cheese, hummus, spinach, and tomato. My peers could just not understand how I wasn’t eating their oh-so-delicious sandwiches such as bologna with mayo, or ham and cheese. My mom didn’t allow us to eat that stuff anyhow; it was pretty much turkey or veggie sandwiches. My sister ate lettuce and mustard sandwiches for, like, five years of her life.  

Well guys, don’t you feel stupid? I wasn’t eating your “meat” sandwiches because it causes cancer, and I wasn’t allowed. Probably because my mom loved me more than your mom loved you…

Ok, no, I’m sure your mom loved you just fine. This article really has nothing to do with criticizing your mom’s choices. We are adults now. It’s all about criticizing your choices.

When people began sharing the posts about “bacon causing cancer” and how processed meats were bad for us, I was shocked. Not because I didn’t know these facts, but because so many of my peers didn’t know. Where have you been? Did you seriously think that processed meats were good for you and a natural part of what a human should eat? Or how about thinking about this: smoked meats. We get lung cancer from smoking. Smoking meats is literally infusing them with stuff that causes cancer.

My mom has been calling processed meats carcinogens since I can remember. Uncured bacon and organic meats were the only things allowed in our home.

My job isn’t entirely to mock you, so I would also like to educate you by explaining in my words what the World Health Organization said exactly about certain kinds of meats, and what that means for you.

So what are processed meats? According to the WHO, they are meats that are cured, salted, smoked, or other processes that help with preservation and to make them taste better. Some examples are salami, ham, and smoked bacon. These are in Group 1 of carcinogens, which means that they most definitely are a cause of cancer.

Red meat (beef, pork, goat, etc.) is in Group 2 of carcinogens, meaning that it probably causes cancer. So, does this mean I’m never going to eat off of a salami and cheese board again? No way. How about that Italian hoagie that I love to splurge on sometimes? Still gonna. I don’t have knowledge about whether or not eating a little bit here and there is going to give you cancer, but I know that for the most part, everything in moderation is ok.

Many find this entire study laughable, such as Michael Symon, a celebrity chef that is a regular on the Food Network. He believes the entire issue is just a ploy to get a reaction out of people and to get visits on their website. I don’t agree with that statement at all, but I do agree with his concern about what these articles are doing to those meat farmers who are doing it “right.” It is unfair to categorize meat that is pumped with nitrates and hormones with all natural grass fed meats.

My advice to you all is to stay educated. Understand the holes in these WHO studies, but also understand that they are probably one of the most reliable sources, and that you probably don’t know more about this stuff than they do. Eat some delicious, all natural salami here and there with a nice glass of vintage (or Barefoot…whatever), but understand that the less meat you eat in general, the better. Chicken and fish are great sources of animal based proteins that are lean and good for you. Remember to buy cage free and wild caught, though! By eating a couple more meatless meals a week, you’ll be doing yourself, and your family, a service.

Off the Beaten Page: Relish in the foodie graphic novel “Relish”

As both a book enthusiast and a foodie, I always look for a good read that combines them both, and I honestly believe I have found a book that tackles food honestly. Lucy Knisley’s “Relish: My Life in the Kitchen” is a graphic novel, a memoir, and a cookbook all in one. It may appear to be everything but the kitchen sink, but it is formed so simply and truthfully that you won’t want to put it down.

Knisley, the daughter of a chef and a gourmet, spent almost the entirety of her childhood around good food. She recalls certain moments of her life and how they formed her relationship with food. She speaks about everything food, from moving from the city to the country and learning to adapt to animal mortality to her favorite recipes illustrated in the cutest animated fashion. She even includes a two-page spread on her time as a cheesemonger and how to categorize cheese down to the most miniscule details, all with ironic smiling cheese rinds adorning the sides of the pages.

A novel like this could usually read as campy in its illustration style and pretentious in the topic of discussion. However, Knisley attacks it in such a tasteful way that it doesn’t come off as either of the two. It reads as an authentic view of growing up around great food. An important thing to note is that Knisley is not trying to condescend with her work, she aims to educate and share her passion of food with readers everywhere.

The popularization of the memoir as a graphic novel has catalyzed over the last few years, with works like Marjane Satrapi’s “Persepolis” and Alison Bechdel’s “Fun Home.” “Relish” does not fall short of these well-known works. The tone, though, is much lighter than the aforementioned two, which may make people question its worth compared to more serious pieces. In writing a more comedic piece, Knisley shows that a memoir can be written solely for the purpose of fun. The book is fun to read, the cartoons are fun to look at, and the recipes interspersed throughout are fun to try. Overall, it excels in several genres.

It is a sad truth in literature that we often times do not give less serious pieces the credit they deserve because they are constantly in competition with their dramatic counterparts. I do encourage readers to give “Relish” a try. The story is definitely food for thought, and it gives the reader greater thought for food.  

Foodie on the Half Shell: Candy

Candy. It was always the forbidden fruit in my house. I grew up with a complete granola mother who didn’t even allow the pure form of sugar into our house until I was 10. She even tricked us into thinking that frosted flakes (a normal child’s definition of breakfast) were a dessert. We called it “treaty cereal.”

Candy was pretty much out of the question unless it was Halloween and it was time for trick or treating. Mind you, my mom always threw out the candy that was left a couple days later.

Candy has a bad stigma, as it should. The sugar is terrible for your teeth and your overall health. It should be a treat, not a staple. I know during this season, though, we can’t seem to get away from the candy, so I compiled a list of candies that aren’t going to burn a hole in your health entirely.  

Dark chocolate: We all tell ourselves it’s okay to eat a lot of dark chocolate because it has a health benefit…that is true, in moderation. Hershey’s Dark Chocolate bars are nice and small, and they give you that little kick of chocolate that you desire and a dose of antioxidants!

PayDay: Thanks to the amount of peanuts in this little snack, you will benefit from protein and fiber by eating these guys. I would say that is reason enough to buy a bag of them! The caramel and peanut crunch will give you the sugar kick you need, but not leave you feeling guilty later on.

Kit Kat: These are probably my favorite candy by far, and fortunately are not the most sugar or calorie dense. The wafer inside helps to eliminate a ton of the fatty bad stuff. Give yourself a break and eat a Kit Kat bar this weekend!

Jolly Rancher: These treats take up lots of time in your mouth while you are sucking on them, which actually helps you not to overindulge in them or other candies. With 70 calories for three of these treats, you aren’t completely crushing your diet. Just make sure to brush your teeth afterwards!

More like my mom and want to stay clear of the bad stuff entirely? Well, here is the most hippy dippy list of candies you can find out there.

Fruit Snacks: You can find the type that are 100% real fruit juice with added bonuses of being GMO free and also vegan (because we all know children under the age of 12 are worried about vegan candy). Some of my personal favorites are Seitenbacher Fruit Snacks (they use thickened beet juice to make them chewy) or Trader Joe’s Fruit Leathers. Those are like crack for me.

Dark Chocolate Bug Bites: These all-natural squares of chocolate have all of the antioxidant goodness of dark chocolate with an added bonus of education and an added bonus of helping children become philanthropists. Each chocolate comes with an educational trading card with a different insect on it and 10% of the proceeds go towards animal wildlife funds.

To find more, you can go to to find all of your favorite vegan, GMO free, organic products. The website has hundreds of options for your next all-natural Halloween party.

Foodie on the Half Shell: Pittsburgh’s best Halloween parties

Last week I gave you guys some ideas on some tasty food to have at your Halloween party this year, but this week I want to talk about where to go for some good food this Halloween. If you are of age, going out on the town for Halloween is an awesome option. Some of my favorite dance clubs and bars are having amazing Halloween parties where you can go and dance, drink, and, most importantly, eat!

So, if good food is a requirement for your Halloween plans, check out these awesome events happening Halloween weekend.

The Pittsburgh Public Market Soiree: The Pittsburgh Public Market is a local and delicious “food court” consisting of dozens of unique food vendors from sweets, to sandwiches, to authentic Mexican food. On October 30, from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m., the market is opening their doors for a delicious costume party. Get ready to try samples of food and drinks throughout the store and jam to some music by DJ Donnelly and the band Chop Shop. This event is 21+.

Spirit’s 1st Annual Lost Lodge Dance Macabre: If you haven’t been to Spirit, you are missing out on an incredible time. This dance club/pizzeria is taking over the Lawrenceville night scene. On October 31 from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m., Spirit is having a crazy dance party. There will be two floors of music and dancing, a monster maze, and an immersive light labyrinth that will make this party like no other in the Burgh. The yummy side to this entire party is the free pizza buffet that is included in your ticket, and it’s not just any kind of pizza. It’s the fancy kind with multiple cheeses and meats and veggies. Tickets for this party are $15, and it is a 21+ event.

Boos and Brews with the Jews: Join Shalom Pittsburgh at Atlas Bottle Works for a night of pizza, delicious beer, and, of course, Hocus Pocus with our favorite Jewish witch, Bette Midler. The beer and movies are pay as you go, but the pizza is free! Happy Hour begins at 5 p.m. and the movie starts at 7 p.m. Obviously, you have to be 21 to go to happy hour, but you can get into the movie no matter what your age is!

Dinner at the Shiloh Grill: Maybe you’re not into the Halloween dress up gig, and want more of the real deal. Like maybe an awesome restaurant that is really haunted? The story is that the woman, Mrs. Soffel, who use to live in the Shiloh Grill’s building in the early twentieth century, was married to the sheriff in town, but fell in love with a prisoner at the local jail. She ended up helping him escape from the jail, but he was killed in a shoot out and she was captured near Butler County. Now, you can sometimes see Mrs. Soffel in flowing white dress walking all around the restaurant. Also, a woman in a sexy black outfit, whose aura smells like oranges, resides in the basement. So, the restaurant is definitely haunted, but the menu is even better. Their burgers are out of sight and the cocktail list is super fun.

Getting the scoop on the Real Food Challenge

Over the years there has been a rise in advocacy in regards to food at Chatham. From the success of the Masters in Food Studies to the creation of the Naturality Club, Chatham students have become very interested in what they are putting into their mouths.

This year, junior Mayann Fix created a Chatham chapter of the Real Food Challenge. The Real Food Challenge (RFC) is an organization that is campaigning to move colleges and universities food services away from factory farms. These types of farms operate on a for-profit basis, often at the expense of the animals. The RFC wants to push educational institutions towards food that is local and/or community based, ecologically sound, and humane. Food that carries these characteristics is referred to as “Real Food.”

Chatham’s dining services has previously committed them to providing the student body with locally grown foods. This was previously seen during the 2014-2015 school year where Eden Hall Tomatoes were available at the sandwich and salad bar. However, with all the progress the dining services have accomplished, Fix still believed more needed to be done to improve the quality of food on campus.

Fix first became interested in the Real Food Challenge after sitting in a RFC meeting at the University of Pittsburgh.

“[At these meetings] I began to learn more and more [about] how our food systems needs to change for the better. I saw Chatham as an awesome opportunity to start that change because one of our pillars is a commitment to sustainability,” she said.

Fix spoke at the World Food Day Dinner on Friday, October 16, in Mellon Board Room.  She informed her listeners about how simple snacks consumed in the western world can be regarded as a luxury in other countries.

In some places where cocoa beans are grown, the people [who] are responsible for the planting and harvesting of cocoa beans may have never tasted chocolate because it is regarded as a luxury product,” said Fix. “One of the goals of the Real Food Challenge is to only acquire foods which pay their workers a fair wage and offer safe working conditions.”

The Real Challenge has been readily accepted in the Chatham Community with undergraduates and graduate students supporting the cause. Fix is also working closely with Anderson Dining Hall Manager Rob Coyne along with the sustainability faculty.

“We need more, always, so pledging your support is a great way to help,” Fix said.

Chatham RFC is currently working on hosting monthly Real Food Days in Anderson where local, fair trade, humane, and ecologically-sound foods are showcased. Fix hopes that this event series will excite the campus community about sustainable foods.

There are many ways for students to get involved in the Chatham RFC initiative.  Meetings are held on Thursdays at 8 p.m. in Falk 216. More events are scheduled for later in the year, and help is needed to plan the activities, along with individuals to partake in the event.  Check out the RFC on Facebook by searching Real Food Challenge @ Chatham.  For more information about getting involved, email

Foodie on the Half Shell: Pittsburgh farmers’ markets

You may think that farmers’ markets in Pittsburgh will be closed now that summer is over, but that is incorrect! Most farmers’ markets actually go into November, selling fall favorites, such as pumpkins and apples.

Farmers’ markets are not just a place to go and buy produce; they are also a great place to buy local products such as organic beauty products, baked goods, and fresh pasta. I love going to the markets all around the city to see new business ideas and catch great deals on incredible goods. My favorite markets are Lawrenceville’s, East Liberty’s, and the North Side’s because of their size and the vast amount of unique vendors.

Lawrenceville’s market is unique in the sense that they have specially placed the market in the middle of the neighborhood where there aren’t accessible groceries stores in walking distance. By placing the market there, it allows people who do not have easy means of transportation in the area to buy reasonably priced food near their home. One of the cool features of this market is its broad range of quality vendors, like A519 Chocolate, which makes artfully decorated chocolates and colorful macaroons; and Fallen Aspen Farm, which brings fresh chicken and duck eggs every week. Lawrenceville’s farmers’ market is open every Saturday until Halloween from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Closest to Chatham’s campus is East Liberty’s market, which is easily one of the largest. You can come here and buy veggies and fruit from at least ten different vendors that range from your basic carrots and tomatoes, to the farms that are selling unique items like romanesco and purple bell peppers. Even if you aren’t looking to buy a bunch of veggies, it’s a great place to wander around and maybe get an all-organic basil lemonade slushy (best lemonade I’ve ever had). East Liberty’s farmers’ market is open every Monday until Thanksgiving week from 3:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

North Side’s market is my favorite because it’s in my neighborhood and my favorite farm crew, Freedom Farms, is there. If you know anything about Freedom Farms then you know that they had a TV show, that their produce is incredible, and that you won’t find better looking farmers. Seriously, though, these “farmers” look like movie stars, just with a little more dirt under their nails. You can also get some amazing snacks at this market such as kettle corn and some of the best gyros and pepperoni rolls that the world has to offer. I’ll even go here for dinner, sometimes! North Side’s farmers’ market is open every Friday until Thanksgiving week from 3:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Farmers’ markets are booming here in Pittsburgh, which is a great sign for businesses, farmers, and even customers. Fresh and local food is more important than one can imagine. The nutritional density of fresh food is so much more than frozen or canned foods, and the impact that buying local has on the environment and the economy is incredible. Taking a little extra time to check out these accessible markets can make a huge difference to the businesses in our city and to your own health.