By Sofia Banzhoff
It took a long time, but Dining Hall finally made me cave. You see, I’m a vegetarian. Or I used to be, I should say. And the latter is Dining Hall’s fault.
I became a vegetarian after reading Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals. It wasn’t that I didn’t like meat; I thought chicken was pretty tasty. Nor was it because of my undying love for animals – they’re super cute and all, but that just wasn’t the main reason I decided to stop eating them. Even if saying this makes me feel like a terrible person, I don’t want to add to it by lying. It was more of an amalgam of reasons that included: the environmental impact of the meat industry, the living and slaughtering conditions of animals, as well as realizing that my body runs better on less meat. I was happy not eating meat; I didn’t crave it at all, since in my world meat was simply not an option anymore.
But then I got to experience the joys and sorrows of Dining Hall. At first, I thought it was fine. I dubbed the vitali’s tofu stripes “vegetarian worms”, and only ate the sauce. If there were any, I took beans instead of tofu, and I used to live for the days they served quiche. However, it was the repetition that got me. At some point, it seemed as though the evil mastermind behind the menu equated vegetarians with people who love, love, love deep-fried tofu.
But that is precisely the problem with a system that works on a meat-starch-sorry-excuse-for-a-vegetable-basis: meat has to be replaced so the system accommodates vegetarians. You can’t just make sure you add enough beans and spinach to your meals; you need something meat-like to make the system fair. Everyone pays the same, so everyone should get the same. Vegetable-based main dishes just don’t fit the bill.
And let’s face it, using Dining Hall vegetables as a basis for survival would be like going to the bar for a single beer.
Even though it would be easy for me to hop on the let’s-criticize-Dining-Hall bandwagon, I can’t blame them for everything. The main reason I went back to eating meat was a shift in nutritional priorities: my focus had changed from not eating meat to trying to avoid processed food. Rules like “Only eat things your great-grandmother would recognize as food” kind of make the whole idea of meat substitutes fall out of favor. So I decided to eat chicken instead of tofu – hoping my great-grandmother would approve – which definitely improved the Dining Hall experience. Meat-eaters may find this hard to believe, but try eating a deep-fried soy product every day – you’ll badly want your dry chicken after that.
But most other vegetarians I’ve talked to don’t share my views. They think Dining Hall replaces meat adequately, and none of them considered quitting. So maybe I’m just a wimp, perhaps I’m not indoctrinated enough, but I just couldn’t take it anymore. At least I haven’t found small invertebrates in my salad, still-raw chicken or still frozen veggie burgers. Or should I say…not yet?