An Ode To Being Dairy-Free at Tufts

Dining halls are a unique part of the college experience. Many of my upperclassmen friends have poeticized about the days they were on the meal plan, dreaming of the wonder and freedom that came only with practically unlimited swipes.

I’m certainly grateful for the easy access to food, although I am annoyed by how wasteful the required premium freshman plan is – who is going to use fifteen swipes a day? I also have an issue with the dining halls: trying to avoid dairy. Now, I’m lucky enough that I’m not going to keel over if a shred of provolone ends up in my sandwich, so I’m coming at this from the privileged perspective of not fearing for my life. Still, even a little dairy will put me out of commission for a good few hours, and I prefer not to risk the extreme distress dairy inflicts upon me.

Tufts is pretty good about providing options, especially since there’s a considerable vegan population. But I wouldn’t be writing this if I was satisfied with everything. It’s time to get petty.

Hodge is the place to go if you’re already late for class and haven’t eaten yet. Yet it can be painfully slow during the blocks when everyone has gotten out of class; every station has a line. There aren’t a whole lot of grab-and-go options that are also dairy-free either – or at least, they all tend to share some similarities. Between protein packs, tortilla chip snackers, and tabbouleh wraps, I’ve consumed more hummus during my time at Tufts than over all the other years fo my life combined. Maybe Cedar Hummus gives the administration under-the-table donations. Or maybe hummus is the plant equivalent of American cheese, and we’ve got warehouses overflowing with it. Either way, I’m pretty sure my diet is 50% chickpea at this point.

There are plenty of alternative milk options; this much is true. Whether they’re any good for you, well… Pretty much all the varieties of non-dairy milk available are high in sugar, usually added sugar. The only type that isn’t is available only in the dining halls; you can’t buy it elsewhere. The same applies to the dairy-free yogurts – only in the dining halls, and super high in added sugar. I’m not anal about health, but if I can’t partake in Sunday sundaes or morning pastries and French toast, I want to get my indulgences through real treats, not something I make myself drink so my bones won’t spontaneously disintegrate.

The dining halls have plenty of options, but honestly, seeing all the food that is made with milk and cheese just makes me feel deprived. Sometimes the labels for dishes are mixed up or even gone, and I’m not about to take any chances. Supposedly there’s vegan cheese in the salad bar, but to this day I have no clue which pile of shredded orange bits is safe and which will utterly wreck me. Along with that, there are foods I miss. Nearly every time there’s seafood, it’s doused in some milky, gut-killing monstrosity. I love squash and potatoes, but they’re almost always prepared with generous amounts of cream or butter.

There are things I appreciate about Tuft’s dairy-free options. When I first got here, I was surprised there were non-dairy milks available in the first place. I was introduced to vegan cream cheese and a whole new world of breakfast options has opened up to me. But please, maybe, some soy yogurt in the fridges at Hodge?