The first thing people usually say when I tell them I’m vegetarian is, “Woah, that must be so hard. I could never live without bacon!” I assure them that it’s not that difficult, but no one ever seems to believe me.
When I was 13, I decided to become a vegan. Unlike the trendy, avocado toast eating vegans of 2017, my decision was not driven by a desire to better my body and soul. No, my choice to stop consuming animal products of any kind mainly stemmed from a deep disgust with the meat processing industry, and the whole slaughtering process in general. Well, that, and doing a few too many dissections in middle school biology. To my parents’ great relief, I eventually converted to just being a vegetarian. I’m very fortunate to have a family that is extraordinarily supportive of my eating habits, and after a while, cooking vegetarian food became second nature to me. Until I got to college.
During my initial visits, one thing I really liked about Denison University was how accommodating they seemed to be to vegetarian and vegan students. I remember being very pleased with the vegetarian options, and I looked forward to being able to eat healthy, veggie food for the next four years. Little did I know that it was all a façade, put on for prospective students and their parents, and I would spend the next three years eating a diet that consisted mostly of pizza and salad.
Now, I would like to acknowledge that Denison’s food is much better than other colleges, both big and small. Bon Appetit works very hard to be accommodating, and to ensure that our food is healthy, locally sourced, and not wasted. One example of this is a program that was created three years ago. It was called Mindful Monday, and when it started, both dining halls would serve all vegetarian food every week. The idea was to set aside one day each week and eat food that lessens our impact on the environment.
In my opinion, the Mindful Monday food was wonderful: I recall delicious falafels loaded with toppings, great grilled tofu, and some stellar mac and cheese. Even though I was happy, other students did not seem to be. One time I heard a student say to his friend, “Dude, the only meat I can eat in here right now is coffee!” Even though I’m not exactly sure what that meant, it was clear that people were not pleased with the new system. After getting so much backlash, Mindful Monday began to alternate between dining halls each week. The food was still pretty good, and even though it was sometimes annoying to have to walk across campus for good vegetarian food, I still really appreciated that they did it.
But now, three years later, Mindful Monday has disappeared entirely, and I am back to subsisting on slices of pizza and sad, wilted salad. While I will say that since their renovations, the food in Curtis has slightly improved (think: margarita pizza with whole basil leaves, and kale instead of just mixed greens at the salad bar), I still find myself with limited options.
I would love to see the revival of Mindful Monday, but in order for it to succeed, a few key changes need to be made. First, the dining halls must offer at least one meat option every Monday. Even though I would like everyone to take one day out of their week to help the planet, I know that’s simply not realistic. Eating vegetarian is my decision, and I really make an effort to respect other’s choice to eat meat. That being said, I do think that Mindful Monday should be offered at both dining halls, because it’s unfair to make people walk across campus just so they can eat a healthy meatless dinner.
After all my meditation on Meatless Monday, I still have one burning question: If Bon Appetit is capable of making delicious vegetarian food (like the gyros I had a few weeks ago, they were ah-mazing) why don’t they just do it every single day? It would greatly eliminate all the backlash from students, and it would help encourage people to eat vegetarian more often. Which is not is not only great for them, but it’s good for the planet, too. Win, win.