GRAPHIC ILLUSTRATION BY ESME BLEECKER-ADAMS
I need to start with a disclaimer here: I am a terrible vegan.
I am a big fan of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy as it relates to eating: if I don’t know whether or not there’s milk in this, I probably don’t want to know.
I routinely cheat on Thursdays for free bagels and cream cheese from the Jewish Students Organization (I may be a vegan, but I’m also a Jew).
When the only vegan options at the dining hall are a tasteless black bean burger, a pizza with an uncooked crust or a flimsy salad made with lettuce that has been sitting out for too long and dressing I don’t like very much, I might have a scoop of creamy mashed potatoes or a handful of egg noodles.
The willful ignorance and the bagels are fully on me. But it’s not just me: when any student walks into the dining hall, they shouldn’t have to choose between their ideals and a meal with actual sustenance — especially when we have been promised so many times that the problem is being fixed.
You all know those posters, right? They started popping up last semester, laying out all of the vegan options that were now available, and the vegan-friendly changes they were planning to make. Aramark said that Jumping Greens would now be a vegan/vegetarian station, that they’ve added tofu scramble to breakfast, that they have vegan pizza now, that Mondays are going meatless, that we still have black bean burgers and so on. But each of those promises fell massively short.
For example, though Jumping Greens did stop serving meat, it is only open on weekdays. I can’t speak for all vegans, but personally, I also eat on weekends.
Not only that, but Jumping Greens serves many dishes that no one could possibly consider full meals. Often, the only things there are smoothies. Don’t get me wrong, I love smoothies, but not so much for dinner.
Or maybe they serve a taco salad. Salad is a stretch though: it’s glorified nachos, and by the time you make it vegan, it’s tortilla chips with guacamole and a few black beans.
Again, I like all of those things, but they aren’t dinner. So, I end up living off rice from Foodology and scraped-together options from the salad bar. This just isn’t sustainable. If you are going to have a vegan/vegetarian station, it needs to be open every day, and it needs to serve an actual meal every day. Otherwise, what’s the point in having a vegan station at all? At this point, they might as well not be serving us anything.
While I commend the efforts of tofu scramble, Meatless Mondays, vegan pizza and veggie burgers, there are issues here too.
Tofu scramble only helps for one of three meals, and it’s the only non-cereal option available for breakfast as the Dining Hall does not even have vegan butter for toast. Meatless Mondays are one day a week. The vegan pizza takes 15 minutes to come out because they don’t make it ahead of time, and is so undercooked that the crust turns back to dough in your mouth.
And while I don’t know if you’ve ever eaten a black bean burger from the Dining Hall, I wouldn’t recommend it. As far as I can tell, no one actually likes them, which makes sense, as the black bean burgers they serve here, like every other black bean burger I have ever eaten, taste like wet cardboard.
When there are real vegan meals, it’s usually just stir-fry over and over again, which gets tiring really quickly. Especially when they can’t seem to figure out how to cook tofu so that it’ll actually have flavor.
The fact is, even if there are options, if they are unchanging ones that no one actually wants to eat, they aren’t viable. We vegans, like everybody else, actually care about what our food tastes like, and get tired of having to eat the same thing every day. If you wouldn’t eat it, we probably won’t either. If you wouldn’t want it every day, we probably don’t either.
And before you tell me that all of the cafeteria food is bad, I know that. But you try eating vegan there for a week. I guarantee that you will come to appreciate the food available to you.
The vegan and vegetarian population at Fordham Lincoln Center may be relatively small, but we are paying the same high meal costs, so we deserve to have real options.
A student should not have to give up their ideals in order to feel comfortable and fed at their school. And this is, of course, not necessarily the most important issue with the dining hall (Halal and Kosher options, anyone?), but it’s a problem I can speak to, and it’s a problem that needs to be fixed.
And it can be fixed if Aramark really tries. It’s pretty simple, honestly. If Jumping Greens was just open every day and always served a real meal, I would be happy. It’s that easy!
Contrary to popular belief, vegans only eat plants, we haven’t actually become them yet. So, no, we can’t produce energy through photosynthesis. We also can’t just survive on tofu and lettuce, because the human body needs more vitamins and proteins than that. And, believe it or not, we do actually enjoy good food. You’d think someone over at Aramark would’ve figured that out by now. After all, we spend thousands of dollars a year on meal plans. It’s high time that money actually goes towards serving us meals. But until that happens, I guess I’ll just have another smoothie.