Nuts about peanuts?

Students may find a common theme running through tonight’s dinner menu: peanut macaroni and cheese, tomato and peanut chutney, peanut parmesan spiced chicken cutlet, spicy peanut chaat, roasted potatoes with peanuts and Indian spices, peanut harissa, slaw with chilies and peanuts.

And for dessert — wait for it — peanut pie.

Students with peanut allergies should avoid the residential dining halls tonight as the dinner menu features the nut.
Erica Cooper
Students with peanut allergies should avoid the residential dining halls tonight as the dinner menu features the nut.

No, you’re not going nutty. Tonight’s meal is brought to you by the National Peanut Board.

Dinner in the residential college dining halls will feature an array of peanut-centric dishes created by Chef Suvir Saran as part of Yale Dining’s guest chef series. But while Saran and Yale Dining staff said they are excited about his menu, four students with severe peanut allergies objected to their de facto exile from college dining halls.

Commons will offer standard fare, said Regenia Phillips, director of residential dining, and the colleges will serve peanut-free salmon, rice and vegetables to accommodate allergic students. The salmon and rice dishes were originally listed as containing peanuts on Sunday.

The peanut extravaganza was organized by the National Peanut Board, an advocacy organization overseen by the U.S. Department of Agriculture that works to advance the interests of America’s peanut farmers. The board is providing the peanut products used in the meal, as well as paying all the expenses of bringing Saran to Yale, said Raffaela Marie Fenn, the board’s president. All peanut products used in tonight’s dinner were grown by American farmers, she added.

Fenn said peanuts are an essential part of diets in the United States and across the globe because of their taste, nutritional value and low cost.

“It’s not an elite food,” Fenn said. “It’s a universally-loved product that can enhance a dish by adding crunch, texture, flavor, but also that health and wellness aspect.”

Saran himself emphasized the affordability of peanuts, calling it the “everyman’s nut.” But Saran said he attaches additional significance to the peanut’s ability to unite people of diverse political and cultural backgrounds.

“In this very jingoistic, politically-charged time, the peanut gives us something both sides can come to the table with,” Saran said. “It’s the thing that centers you at the table no matter what side of the table you’re at.”

But not everyone is on board: David Edwards ’12, who is severely allergic to peanuts, said he is confused as to why the peanut should be so prominently featured at tonight’s dinner. Edwards’ allergy is so severe, he said, that even being in the presence of peanuts causes a reaction.

Sabrina Karim ’11, who shares a similar allergy to peanuts, said she is particularly concerned about the potential for cross-contamination. During her freshman year, Karim said, she suffered a near-fatal anaphylactic reaction that she attributes to accidental presence of peanuts in some dining hall food, so the abundance of peanuts has raised fears of a repeat incident.

“I think it’s almost impossible to guarantee absolute decontamination,” Karim said.

Both Edwards and Karim said at first they thought the menu was a joke.

For his part, Edwards said that he’ll be dining off-campus tomorrow night, and Karim said she will eat in Commons.

About 1 percent of Americans suffer from a peanut or tree nut allergy. Almost 30 of the students who responded to Yale Dining’s fall survey reported a peanut or tree nut allergy. Phillips said Yale Dining takes the concerns of students suffering from peanut allergies seriously, adding that they are invited to dine in Commons. For students’ protection, Yale Dining asks students who have a severe allergy to notify dining hall staff of their condition. And despite her concerns, Karim said that in the past Yale Dining has accommodated her needs well.

Saran is one of the world’s leading experts on Indian cuisine; he has published two cookbooks and has served as a consultant on nutrition for universities such as Brown and Cornell. He currently works as co-executive chef at New York City’s “Devi” restaurant.

Phillips said that Saran’s love of peanuts and Indian cuisine has been evident throughout the preparation for tonight’s meal.

“He’s very passionate about what he does,” Phillips said.

In preparation for tonight’s dinner, Saran spent over 16 hours training Yale chefs to cook his dishes properly. As part of his visit, Saran will also give a Branford Master’s Tea today at 4 p.m.

National Peanut Month is not until March, Fenn said, though November is National Peanut Butter Lovers Month.


  • Just wait…

    …for bee night, coming soon. Bring your epi-pen.

  • GoneNuts

    This is ridiculous. We pay a lot of money to eat in the dining halls–why are we faced with a corporate lobby-group sponsored meal of nuts nuts nuts?! If the meal is brought to us by the National Peanut Board, does that mean that we don’t have to swipe to eat tonight’s dinner… of course not. Yum, vegetarians have a choice of the meat-contaminated deli/salad bar, the ever popular sugared cereal bar, or.. fasting. Way to go YDS. Lame gets lamer, astonishing.

  • FailBoat

    I’m not allergic to peanuts – I just think they’re disgusting. Come on Yale – step it up. Why can’t we have McDonald’s sponsor a day of food?

  • anonymous

    An important part of sustainability is diversifying the food we eat. While it is true that peanut allergies are a serious concern for many, the nation is currently in the grip of a peanut phobia. It’s important to remember their economic value.

  • mmmmmmmmm

    anaphylactic chicken

  • I don’t understand…

    …why is it considered an acceptable solution to require students with allergies to walk across campus to Commons dining hall? Other students are never forced out of their residential colleges in the same manner. Once again, a theme night strikes and students with allergies are left by the wayside. YDS, please stop making theme nights 100% one type of food without giving us other options IN our dining halls.

  • Allergic

    This is absurd. Today, more than ever, people have severe food allergies. This does not mean that Yale Dining has to absolutely go out of their way, at the inconvenience of others, to accommodate these persons, but it should definitely NOT involve inundating every dining hall with one of the most common food allergens.

    It’s not as issue of convenience, making those who are allergic to have to walk to Commons, but an issue of respect for those who have severe food allergies. Many people do not understand that residue and even just the smell of a certain food can send someone into allergic shock. As someone who is severely allergic to several foods (but not peanuts), I would steer clear of the dining halls for days after this. Yale Dining’s “solution,” of providing two peanut-free dishes does not help in the slightest. The same people, the same kitchen, and the same utensils are used to prepare all the foods, I’m sure.

    On another note, being allergic to something doesn’t mean that someone “dislikes” a food and it makes them sick to their stomach. Being allergic means that the slightest contact with an allergen — we’re talking the size of a grain of salt here— difficulty breathing, swelling of the mouth, vomiting, and eventually death are possible.

    People with food allergies learn to protect themselves… This isn’t some whining rant to get Yale Dining to go out of their way at the inconvenience of others to accommodate them. However, purposefully preparing a meal that poses an arbitrary risk to a segment of the population is not acceptable.

    And on that note, get rid of the walnut butter in Commons. It’s beyond unnecessary.

  • @4


  • wha?

    feel like i’m in bizarro world
    this is the weirdest news story ever

  • salmon and veggies

    actually, #6, they do have other options, namely the salmon and veggies, which I will be eating, even though I don’t have any allergies.

    that said, I second your thoughts:

    Dining Services, why do “Theme Nights” have to have three entrees from the same cuisine? Why do we need “Themes”? Why can’t you simply treat the food (which is great) like normal food, and intersperse it throughtout the week?!

    That would even help our amazing chefs, so that they aren’t expected to stir-fry three different entrees.

    Believe me, the food this semster speaks for itself. We don’t need hack-neyed theme nights to exoticize the food. Please!

  • Y11

    It should be pointed out that allergies to coconuts often go hand-in-hand with allergies to peanuts. When reading the menu, I noticed that every single last dish that does not include peanuts includes coconuts. EVERY. LAST. ONE.

    It was at this point that this went from surreal (why the hell are we helping someone “advance the interests of American peanut farmers?”) to mindbogglingly stupid.

  • Anonymous

    “In this very jingoistic, politically-charged time, the peanut gives us something both sides can come to the table with”

    Oh really, now? I’m so glad that our mutual love of Reeses and Thai Taste is potent enough to help us reconcile our political differences.

    Commons and Yorkside are looking mighty tasty tonight.

  • David Edwards

    I was misquoted. I said that being in the dining hall during tonight’s dinner COULD cause me to have a reaction of some sort, not that I definitely would.

  • @ Anonymous (post 12)

    The full quote is “In this very jingoistic, politically-charged time, the peanut gives us something both sides can come to the table with. It’s the thing that centers you at the table no matter what side of the table you’re at.”

    Am I the only one who’s really confused by what the table is supposed to be in this metaphor?

  • ATB

    This is literally the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard.

    There will undoubtedly be traces/residue of peanuts EVERYWHERE In the dining halls in addition to the mentioned cross contamination. I am going to be at risk of a reaction at IM sign ups tonight and even at breakfast tomorrow.

  • yum, peanuts

    from #7:
    “Many people do not understand that residue and even just the smell of a certain food can send someone into allergic shock. ”

    I’m prefacing my comment by saying that I am very happy that I don’t have food allergies this severe, and I do love peanuts.

    I think tonight’s meal sounds great. It really does stink for those who will need to eat elsewhere, but if your allergies are so severe that merely smelling peanuts could trigger a reaction, well, then you probably wouldn’t be able to eat near anything peanut-related. If that’s the case, then the preponderance of peanuts at this meal shouldn’t give you any more trouble than if the dining hall served just one very popular peanut dish that all the other students elected to eat. Again, that’s really terrible about your allergy, but if you have a severe reaction, then I guess you’re just SOL.

    Besides, at least there are alternative dishes available. Due to my difficulties digesting certain foods, I often couldn’t find any foods that I could actually eat and had to resort to salads and sandwiches. Frequently of the PB sort.

  • yo

    On the commercialism aspect, there are sponsored food nights every once in a while-in the 2006/07 school year, we had a Greek food Night sponsored by some Greek food importer, I believe. It was awesome–one of the best meals I have had in the dining hall. I stayed for almost 2 hours it a so good.

    A lot of the dining hall foods normally have peanuts, I feel, plus the ice cream bar has peanut toppings, so peanuts are always there for the allergic people. And really, Commons isn’t far. Stop the whining.

    I think it is a cool, fun idea. I think that cooking classes should go along with this, though.

  • meh

    As someone who is not allergic and thinks peanuts are okay-tasting – wouldn’t it have made more sense to have this special and potentially triggering menu in Commons and let people have their safe meals in their dining halls? I mean, the dishes sound delicious and cool but being allergic to peanuts is hardly a rare phenomenon.

  • hlt

    Is this dining arrangement legal?

  • safety

    Yale medical school lab was not safe, Safety Dance was not safe, Branford College was not safe (fire)and now all the residential dining halls are not safe…

  • ilikepeanutsbutnottonight

    tonight’s dinner was pathetic and yale should be ashamed of itself.

  • so fat

    the magic bar had over 1100 calories per serving…

  • Ted

    This opens the door to all sorts of variations on a theme of corporate-sponsored food nights. I’m surprised students’ hands weren’t stamped (or branded) with the board’s Peanut logo.

    Coming soon to a dining hall near you, dinner brought to you by the National Cattleman’s Beef Association. Or maybe someone like Kraft. Mm, mm good!

    Get real, YDS. Are you really in that much need of outside support with the ridiculous prices students pay?

  • Annoyed

    No one wants peanuts in every dish. I got so sick of peanuts and coconut I only ate half my dinner. This was a really bad idea.

  • Migly

    Who cares, Try or don’t. It’s a dining hall, not a whining hall.

  • mc12

    i didn’t go to peanut dinner but i thought it sounded pretty good actually

    i’m kind of looking forward to future theme nights

    keep trying yds!

  • alum

    wow….so whiny. wait til you have to buy your own food. People are always complaining about dining at Yale, and I have no idea why. Have you BEEN to another college eatery? Most places give you a choice of burger, veggie burger, cereal and grilled cheese.

    Those of you who are angry that the university would draw attention to a local and sustainable food in conjuction with what it serves need to stop and think.

    Yale students disappoint more than services. For a group of people who generally are out there doing “awareness” campaigns for every advocacy group under the sun, it seems strange to me that so many moan when the school administration tries to do something beyond what is expected.

    I wish I had been there for this dinner, it sounds delicious.

  • alum2

    #27 it seems strange to me that so many moan when the school administration tries to do something beyond what is expected.

    Nobody is whining. Yale is hosting an event that is deadly for some people. That is wrong! Food allergy is a form of disability. Imagine you decide to take down the ramp to do “something beyond what is expected” and send away people on wheelchair…

  • Anonymous

    Avoidance is the best remedy for a severe food allergy. Looks like Yale wasn’t looking out for some members of the college! How about posting the actual ingredients on the website ?

  • Wow

    Stop bitching, guys. We have lots of great food, variety, and many options. Seriously. Stop bitching and have some cereal or go get pizza. All this whining is MORE disgusting than the peanut mac and cheese.

  • Wow 2

    All the whining and bitching are to prevent another tragedy at Yale. What are you thinking?

  • F—Peanuts

    Stupid idea. Yale obvi has no respect for those with allergies…

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