Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass DC’s get creative with peanut butter

By Steffi Porter

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Maria Uminski/Collegian

Peanut butter and jelly has some competition.

Weird, different and delicious are three words a number of students used to describe the new peanut butter bars at the dining commons at the University of Massachusetts, which began serving not only peanut butter and jelly but a wide range of peanut butter sandwich concoctions this fall.

Despite its popularity at the Worcester Dining Commons yesterday among those willing to try  mango chicken peanut butter sandwiches – which is one of many twists on the classic sandwich – few students seem to have any idea where the idea for a peanut butter sandwich bar featuring such an array of ingredients came from.

“I think it’s weird, though not necessarily weird in a bad way,” said Chris Matthews, a junior mechanical engineering major. “I thought it would be nasty, but it was good. People should definitely try it. I’ve actually been getting requests from friends from other schools for me to bring them some.”

Enrique Burton, an employee at the Worcester Dining Commons, stood behind the peanut bar yesterday, serving the afternoon’s special.  He said he’s also not sure where the idea for a peanut butter bar came from.

“I don’t know why there’s a peanut butter bar now,” he said. “I know some students are iffy about it but they still try it because it’s something different.”

According to Garrett DiStefano, the interim director for residential dining, the peanut butter bar is about adding diversity to students’ dining experience.

“Students have always wanted to have more flexibility in what they eat, and peanut butter is very popular among students,” DiStefano said.

Over the summer, UMass Auxiliary Services joined forces with the National Peanut Board , a “farmer-funded national research, promotion and education check-off program,” according to its website. Auxiliary Services also worked in conjunction with Peanut Butter and Co., a New York-based retail peanut butter and jelly company.

Using Peanut Butter and Co.’s many types of peanut butter, which are also sold in Whole Foods and other grocery stores, the peanut bar offers everything from sweet to savory and even spicy peanut butter sandwiches.

Sandwiches are served with fruit, jalapeños, chicken and other flavors such as maple, chocolate and honey, in addition different types of bread like rye and whole grain.

Aside from offering a specific sandwich every day at lunch time and dinner, the bar also gives students the option of requesting a specific type of sandwich be made.

Overall, DiStefano said student feedback has been very positive. And the things that aren’t popular, he said, can be tweaked and improved.

“We’re taking traditional ingredients and mixing them up and putting nontraditional ingredients in there,” Howland said.

According to Ken Toong, the executive director Auxiliary Enterprises, Auxiliary Services worked with the National Peanut Board and UMass’ executive chef to diversify the menu, looking for unique ways to offer students healthy and fun options at meal time.

Vinnie Virga, a sophomore in the Isenberg School of Management, is a self-proclaimed “huge fan” of the peanut butter bar, though she said she has no idea where it came from or what the story is behind it. Neither does Emily Dinjian, a sophomore biology major who said she would like the bar better if they toned down the complexity of its recipes.

A number of students said they enjoy the unconventional meal opportunities offered at the peanut butter bar, including freshman linguistics major Lucia Montalvo, who said despite not enjoying all of the sandwiches, she has enjoyed some.

“I’ve had some bad experiences (with the peanut butter bar),” said Montalvo. “Then again, some flavor combinations I never thought would be good are good.”

Steffi Porter can be reached at [email protected]

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