WOOSTER, Ohio — Kait (Remenaric) Turshen’s first taste of soy milk was also her last. As a first-year student at The College of Wooster in the fall of 2001, Turshen thought she would try the product, which was available in the dining hall. Unfortunately, she suffered an allergic reaction that resulted in intense itching and swelling in her throat.
It turned out to be her first food-related allergy, but it would not be her last. Throughout her college years, she developed more and more food allergies, but she didn’t know the cause. Just about everything she ingested seemed to produce an allergic reaction, prompting her mother to dub her “Bubble Girl” (as in someone who must live in a bubble because of the susceptibility to disease and other threats to one’s health). The name stuck and would one day become part of her destiny.
A 2001 graduate of Wooster High School, Turshen chose to further her education in her hometown, in part, because her father, Rick (Class of 1980), graduated from the College and “had a great experience.” She was also attracted to Wooster’s academic reputation and the opportunity to play on the varsity softball team.
Turshen decided to major in political science with an eye toward a possible career in law, but after interning at a law firm in Columbus, her interest waned. “I learned a lot from the experience, but there was a lot I didn’t like,” she said. “On my first day, I saw a grown man cry because he had just lost custody of his children. I wanted something more positive, more fun, so I decided not to pursue law school.”
Eventually, she decided she would check out the fashion industry, so she moved to New York City three days after graduating from the College in 2005, but the fast-pace, high-stress industry was not to her liking either, so she looked into other options.
Meanwhile, her allergies were getting worse. “I spent most of my 20s not feeling well,” she said. “I thought it was anxiety, and as I got older it got more severe. My body was unraveling, I thought, because of the stress.”
Finally, she visited an allergist who disclosed that she had more than 20 food allergies. It was then that she found a new direction and turned her life around, both personally and professionally. “I had to cut out the foods I was allergic to,” she said, “but then I wondered ‘what am I going to eat?’”
Necessity being the longtime mother of invention, Turshen discovered her true passion. She started a blog and posted recipes that were gluten free, allergen free, and vegan. Then she started experimenting with alternatives to flour and other items. “I set out on a mission to recreate my mother’s delicious chocolate chip cookies,” she said. “I realized that I needed to use multiple flour combinations. Over time, I was able to come up with a way to produce cookies, brownies, and other baked goods without gluten and other common food allergens.”
Last month, Turshen launched her first major product — an all-purpose flour that she calls “BG Bakes” (as in Bubble Girl), which is available locally at Wooster Natural Foods on East Liberty Street. Now, she and her sister, Erin Buchholz, are busy marketing the product regionally and nationally.
While her success may not seem to have much to do with her education at The College of Wooster, Turshen insists otherwise. “With Wooster’s emphasis on (undergraduate) research, I learned to be as comprehensive as possible when investigating topics,” she said. “I also discovered the value of being able to turn research into something tangible, something positive. I saw that there was a void in the marketplace. Now I hope this product will fill it.”
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