The zesty aroma of hot sauce permeates through the kitchen as a group of freshmen enters Annenberg Dining Hall.
“Yes! They are serving the red spiced chicken!” one of the students says, giving high fives to his friends.
The red spiced chicken breast—consistently ranked the Harvard University Hospitality and Dining Services’ top five favorite dishes—is a recipe submitted by the parents of a Harvard undergraduate through a program called Recipes from Home. The entree was so popular when first introduced several years ago that it became a regular menu item.
During winter break, HUHDS sends a postcard to parents asking them to send in their favorite home-style recipe, which are featured in the undergraduate dining halls from mid-February to March.
As part of the program, a tradition that has been in existence for more than 10 years, HUHDS receives recipes from parents of students from every class, every House, and every part of the world, HUHDS spokesperson Crista Martin said.
“It’s fun to see what people are eating at home,” Martin said. “We get a glimpse into the food culture around the world.”
Before the Internet, parents had to fill out the postcard by hand and return it. Now everything can be submitted online through the HUHDS website.
Once all the recipes are submitted, Martin said she distributes them to the chefs, who then select which ones to showcase in the dining halls.
“We try to pick the one that caters to a huge number of students,said Luiz C. DaCosta, chef production manager at Kirkland and Eliot Houses.
Finding a dish that can be made in large quantities is not always easy, DaCosta said. An upperclassman dining hall serves an average House population of about 400 students, with Annenberg serving more than 1,600 freshmen.
Arlene B. Richburg, chef production manager at Lowell and Winthrop Houses, said that although she loved a submitted recipe for sticky buns, it wasn’t feasible to make hundreds of sticky buns to serve in the dining hall.
“I’d love to do it for a smaller group,” Richberg said, “but I also want to do justice to the recipe.”
Richberg, who said she tries to make about three to four recipes from home per week, said the white chicken chili was so popular that she cooked extra for the baked potato and chili bar.
Martin said popular recipes from home are sometimes incorporated into the HUHDS’ regular menu, just like the red spiced chicken breast.
Other recipes that have been featured this year include cheese polenta, pork loin with artichoke sauce, Creole chicken, and Pavlova, a meringue-based dessert.
Megan MacMillan, mother of Kathryn G. MacMillan ’13, submitted a pasta dish with avocados and roasted peppers. She named it “Out of the Ballpark” because Kathryn’s brother had hit his first Little League home run on the day she cooked it.
“The recipe was an instant hit at our house here in Colorado,” MacMillan said. “It has remained a family favorite ever since.”
MacMillan said her daughter enjoyed a little taste of home at Harvard when the Leverett House dining hall highlighted the entrée in February. She said Kathryn called her immediately to say that it had been well-received.
“We are grateful that the dining services are more than just three square meals. Students seem to enjoy time to linger and socialize around the healthy food options,” MacMillan said.
—Staff writer Jane Seo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.