Stephanie’s Vegan Apple Crisp

Just my average serving size.

It’s Sunday, so naturally I’m already thinking ahead to next Friday…  Not because it marks the start of the weekend, and not even because I don’t have class. Anyone who knows me at all, knows that on Friday I’ll be at lunch in Usdan, no matter what,  all because of the delicious gift from heaven that is vegan apple crisp.

Dreaming of its smell gets me out of bed in the morning. It motivates me to make the trek from LoRise all the way to Usdan without even considering what the lunch specials are at WesWings. From the moment I get into the cafeteria, I can feel its presence.  Many times I can’t even contain myself enough to put my bag down before getting a table. I just have the immediate need to rush to the vegan station, grab a bowl, take the serving spoon, and slowly pass through the layer of crumb topping to get to the fresh warm apples that await to satisfy my cravings. As I scoop the apple crisp into my mouth, I make sure to get the perfect ratio of topping to apple in order to get the full sensational experience.

Many of you might not be able to understand my extreme infatuation, but I’m sure we can all agree that without apple crisp, Fridays at Wesleyan just wouldn’t be the same. And to thank for such a wonderful creation, we have Stephanie Zinowski, our Vegan lunch chief.

In a Middletown press article even PETA’s associate director Marta Holmberg had to give it a shout out, “with delicious dishes such as Mongolian seitan and vegan apple crisp, Wesleyan University’s vegan-friendly menu puts it at the top of its class,”

“Some people go over their friend’s houses and flip through their record collection or their photos… I’m just like, can I look at your cookbook?”, said Stephanie. As the head vegan chef for lunch, she’s here Monday through Fridays starting at 6:30am to prepare her station. “Food is joy, food is celebration. So keep that in mind and realize how fortunate we are to have beautiful, clean, healthy food. And just appreciate it as much as you can.”

Stephanie has been vegan and vegetarian for 29 years, for animal rights reasons. Although she doesn’t see herself as someone who would take part in a protest by holding signs and chanting, she does see herself as  being the one to feed the protesters.

She started making apple crisp about 11 years ago, when Wesleyan hired her after she graduated from a Vegetarian cooking school, Natural Gourmet. When she first started, back in the old dining hall, all she had to work with were two hot plates and two rice cookers. The challenge was finding enough dishes that she could cook in large quantities with the equipment she had to work with. Once the University realized the continued demand for these foods, she finally got an oven along with the program’s expansion. Always trying new things, she found the apple crisp recipe, experimented with some oatmeal, got hold of local flour, apples, organic cinnamon, and the rest was history.

From start to finish, the deliciousness of apple crisp is a three-day process, which would certainly take even longer if it wasn’t for the help of the Usdan student workers. Wednesdays is dedicated to peeling apples, Thursday the crumb topping is made and the apples are panned, then finally on Friday morning each pan is put in the oven for baking to be ready by 11:00am when the doors open for lunch.

When I asked Stephanie if there was ever a Friday without apple crisp, I was pleased that she shook her head and declared “I wouldn’t want to be here on that Friday!”

In light of Weslove for apple crisp, Usdan recently purchased a fancy new apple peeler so that instead of making only 10 trays, they’re able to keep up with 15! Now, even after the lunch rush, you can rest easy knowing that there should always be some of Stephanie’s Apple Crisp there waiting for you.

What’s Stephanie’s favorite part of her job? “[my job] is crazy, it’s really hard work, but at the end of the day when people say thank you for making my food, that little statement makes a difference. So it’s the interaction with the students.” Stephanie’s Vegan Apple Crisp is so ingrained within the Wesleyan tradition that we both laughed at the possibility of students  coming back for their reunions and talking about apple crisp…  I will most definitely be one of them.

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