From home kitchen to college cafeteria

Associated Press

Stung by decades of jokes about mystery meat and soggy sandwiches, college dining halls across the country are borrowing recipes from the ultimate authority on heartwarming meals: Mom and Dad.

That's how Kristina Forzaglia's favorite dish -- her mom's rich and creamy stroganoff -- got on the University of Connecticut menu, along with other students' comfort foods from home, such as Albanian chicken wings, couscous with spinach, and pumpkin cookies.

Colleges see the approach as a way to lend culinary flair to their cafeteria and relieve homesickness too.

"It's a great connection with home for the students, and a way to de-institutionalize a college food service program," said J. Michael Floyd, food service director at the University of Georgia, which pioneered the approach 20 years ago with its annual Taste of Home competition.

From hundreds of entries that are taste-tested each year, Georgia has selected such winners as eclair squares, poppy seed chicken and bulldog punch bowl cake.

"These parents aren't just sharing a recipe," Floyd said. "They're sharing a family tradition."

At Williams College in Williamstown, Mass., barbecued salmon and Thai eggplant dishes had their start in students' homes, as did Ukrainian apple nut squares and whole-wheat cheddar buns.

The practice has been catching on at major universities such as Yale and Harvard and small schools such as Wheeling Jesuit University in Wheeling, W.Va., and Soka University of America in Aliso Viejo, Calif.

Some experts say it is the kind of idea that would appeal to college-age "millennials," members of the generation born after 1981.

William Strauss, co-author with Neil Howe of "Millennials Rising" and "Millennials Go to College," said those young adults were more connected with their parents than previous generations were.

"By and large, the parents come from a generation that looks back on their college years with a fair amount of positive reflection and happy memories," Strauss said. "Serving those family meals is an example of a college finding a positive way for the kids and the parents to take advantage of the tighter student-family connections that we already see in this group."

Mona Milius, dining director for the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, said parents feel more confident about the quality of the dining halls when they visit, try the food and submit their own recipes.

"The students are thrilled about it, the parents are thrilled about it, and we're happy because we get new items to add to our menu," Milius said.

At UConn, which solicited family recipes this year for the first time, the Forzaglia family stroganoff won raves from students and college officials at a recent taste testing.

"It's actually pretty simple to make, which is why I thought it might be good for the university," said Kristina's mother, Mary.

Students picked at random during a midweek lunch to try the new recipes were also wild for Dad's Famous Albanian Chicken Wings, inspired by freshman Benjamin Subashi's Albanian grandfather and submitted by his father.

"If they put these on the menu all the time, I'd be such a happy man," said junior Mike Hannon of Belmont, Mass.

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