By Corinne Coakley
The College’s Dining Services received an A+ on their “Vegan Report Card,” however, I’d give it something closer to a C-.
I became a vegetarian my junior year of high school, after many years of my vegetarian sister shoving pictures of baby cows in my face everytime I ate a hamburger. Emotional manipulation at its finest, for it worked, and I haven’t eaten a cow or anything with a mother and a brain in almost four years. It was certainly a struggle at first, the suppression of my beef and pork and chicken cravings did not happen without a fight. But I said goodbye to the meat-eating part of my life, to the turkey clubs and hotdogs at barbecues, and moved to a new era, one where guilt didn’t sour the taste of my meals.
I thought it was hard being a vegetarian at home, eating vegetable tortilla soup over my mom’s famous chicken tortilla soup, BLTs with fake bacon the color of pepto bismol, Impossible burgers over Bobby Flay’s and Five Guys. Little did I know, I had yet to face the highest peak of my challenge: Eickhoff (Eick) Dining Hall.
I’m not one of those people who despises Eick and avoids it at all costs. In fact, I chose to live right above it, so that must say something.
I find the mashed potatoes and mac and cheese frequently delicious, and the burrito station a consistent source of fuel. The breakfasts are often enjoyable, particularly the french toast sticks drenched in syrup from that sticky green bucket. And it’s always fun when Eick hosts holiday-themed lunches and decorates the dining hall with balloons and colorful centerpieces. Or when Eick’s manager, Kevin Samuels, walks from table to table with a microphone and asks diners trivia questions. Eating becomes a social and cultural experience.
However, the lack of variety and protein options in Eick is a constant struggle for me. I won’t claim that there aren’t enough non-meat options, for there are a number: burritos with rice and beans, pizza, pasta, salads and the occasional veggie burger at the grill. But these options rarely change.
Over the course of the past two years, I have eaten an ungodly amount of potatoes and mac and cheese, about a full plate a day, and I have a burrito pretty much every single day for lunch. This lack of variety can’t be very good for the diet, especially when it consists of endless cheese and carbs. Additionally, these options are severely lacking in their protein. The beans at the burrito station are about it when it comes to protein, so either I give up the protein quest and lose some valuable energy, or I eat so many burritos that I despise the sight of them by the end of the semester. Rarely does the dining hall serve tofu, and when it does, it isn’t properly cooked and it’s usually soaked in tomato sauce, which is not the prime flavor and texture combination. Where’s the tofu glazed in teriyaki sauce and sesame seeds, the sweet and sour tofu, the fried tofu? Tofu is one of the primary sources of protein for vegetarians, and there are a myriad of ways to prepare it to make it edible, ways that might even convert meat eaters to the herbivore side.
Madison Cavallo, a sophomore history and secondary education major and fellow vegetarian at the College, shared her own experiences in Eick with me. “As a vegetarian, my options at Eick are very limited; and half the time when there is something available that I should be able to eat, like an egg roll or slice of pizza, there is meat in it unnecessarily.”
Due to this lack of options, Madison tends to eat the same meal every day, in her case, a sandwich from the deli. “Since the station is made to order I can customize my food to have veggies and a bit of protein.” The made-to-order stations in Eick are often the saving grace for vegetarians. “I think a beneficial solution for everyone would be to make vegetarian dishes with meat or chicken on the side for people to add if they choose.”
Eick has a lot of room for improvement in their vegetarian options, but I wonder if, in its current state, Eick even has the capacity to sufficiently accommodate vegetarians. The dining hall is understaffed and the existing employees are clearly overworked. We saw this last year when that infamous video of the Eick employee dumping trays in the burrito station, expressing anger with the working conditions in the dining hall, circulated campus.
To improve the vegetarian experience in Eick, the staffing concerns should be addressed first. More people should be hired to work in Eick, so employees would have more opportunities for breaks and wouldn’t have to work so many grueling back-to-back shifts. With more staff members, the dining hall team could switch their focus from just getting by to providing quality meals for all types of diners.