BY CAT ALLISON
This summer, I worked in a deli for two weeks. It took maybe two days of impaling chicken to turn me into a vegetarian. My main jobs were to make fried and rotisserie chicken. The whole chicken weighed about as much as, oh, a newborn baby. They were kind of soft and pudgy too, again, like babies.
Now, I never really liked to touch raw chicken in the first place, so having to handle, bread and basically just be around raw chicken for six hours at a time was almost a personal hell. Preparing rotisserie chicken involves knotting their legs together, bending their wings around and skewering them onto the turn poles.
So I became a vegetarian and came back to school.
While I was still at home, it wasn’t too much of a problem to give up meat. Occasionally my parents would, I think, feel bad when they had planned a big dinner or cookout and had forgotten any veggie stuff, but for the most part I cooked for myself.
That was my original plan when I came back to school. I’d turn my lounge into a kitchen with hot pots, microwaves and toaster ovens.
I felt more confident of my abilities to feed myself in a dorm without a real kitchen than I did of the abilities of the dining hall to provide a varied vegetarian diet. I am finding that while I overestimated my cooking skills, I did not underestimate ARAMARK’s ability to provide these options.
My first experience cooking with my brand new hot pot almost became my last. Ever. I over filled the pot with water, and adding more rice made it dangerously close to overflowing.
No problem, I thought, I’ll just make sure not to bump or jar the hot pot. I carefully placed it on the trunk near my desk, and proceeded to trip, bumping into the trunk, causing the overflowing hot pot to slosh water all over the floor and onto the nearby electric socket.
Why would I go to the trouble of trying to feed myself with portable appliances when there are three dining halls on campus?
During my previous vegetarian stints I always felt that there was an inadequate variety and selection of animal-free foods. I would complain about the lack of variety, and then laziness would take over and I’d break down. Chicken finger subs were my biggest weakness. This time around, I paid much closer attention to the vegetarian selections to find out exactly how little variety there actually was.
Every menu has one or two selections?there are veggie burger, grilled cheese, cheese paninis, cheese quesadillas. Sometimes the soup looks attractive. But does anyone really eat cream of mushroom? Sometimes there’s a greek or garden salad left at the end of the day.
If you’re willing to pay $10 for a salad, Danforth Dining Center has iceberg lettuce, sometimes spinach, beans and other salad ingredients. So, to break it down into food groups, you can eat from the grilled cheese family, the salad family or the miscellaneous.
On campus, a diet without meat becomes a diet of cheese and lettuce. Besides being boring, living on a diet with little or no variety puts you at risk for vitamin and mineral deficiencies. The situation becomes worse for people who want to avoid animal products, not just animal meat.
Vegans, whether by ideology or by an allergy to lactose, have it particularly rough. If you take out all the foods that have cheese or milk or eggs in them, you’re left with the garden salad and that hummus wrap that isn’t always available.
I think the first thing that needs to happen is for ARAMARK to realize that cheese and lettuce does not constitute a healthy vegetarian diet. There needs to be a greater variety of vegetarian food, and there needs to be a reliable selections of options for vegans. Having a greater selection of vegetarian and vegan food on campus would not only make it easier to be a vegetarian ? it would also provide more variety and healthier food for everyone else.
Allison is a junior and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.