The Discomfort Zone – Vegetarianism

Katie Hicks

College is all about developing a world-view, right? Usually, I’m not a big risk-taker, but for this column I’ll be trying something new every other week. This week, I’m a vegetarian.

I was a vegan for all of four hours, and I only lasted so long because I skipped breakfast. When I got to Frank for lunch on the first day of my vegetarian endeavor, I made a beeline for the coffee – my 9:55 and I don’t get along, so I was desperate for some caffeine. Without thinking, I poured in my usual two Splendas and skim. I took a sip and suddenly realized, with a jolt of horror akin to the type I get when I realize I ate a burger on a Friday in Lent, that I had failed.

Granted, I had planned to only cut out meat from my diet at the start. I figured this would be hard enough — I am definitely a fan of cows, chickens, turkeys and pigs (mostly just bacon, but still…). However, my roommate, Kayla, who is practically a vegan herself, hassled me unrelentingly about my sacrifice. She’s too nice to actually call anyone a wimp, but her arguments implied the sentiment. She was very supportive when I failed, and honestly I think she secretly expected me to, owing to my love of all things dairy.

So the vegan thing didn’t work. Still, I was determined to go a week without meat, even if I still took advantage of some other bovine products.

My first meal was a bowl of vegetable soup, two slices of peanut butter toast, and an apple. Very simple, and not very daring, but I wanted to take it slow. And truthfully, I think tofu is weird. It’s the final frontier of mystery meats, at least in my world, and I am a very unwilling pioneer. I stuck to the salad bar, fruit bowls and soup for a few days, but such food becomes monotonous very quickly, and, truthfully, doesn’t make for a very satisfying dinner.

On day four, I took the plunge. I ate tofu. It wasn’t as rubbery as I thought it might be, but it was virtually flavorless. Actually, that’s a lie — it tasted like dirty water, but it was chewy. One aspect of tofu that most frightened me was the institutional, white block form Frank most commonly offers. However, this tofu was formed like ground meat (and I was assured it was actually tofu, no worries). I thought the more familiar texture might fool my senses into liking it, but in fact it did nothing to help the situation. Kayla informed me that the tofu at Frank usually disappoints. Well, I tried. I wanted to like it, but the emphatic “NO” from my taste buds won’t let me. The Beets said it best when speaking of “killer tofu.”

Tofu aside, however, I discovered some unexpected difficulties in abstaining from meat, (not the least of which was my constant craving for a turkey sandwich). I had to check that dishes that appeared to be vegetarian-friendly really were. One afternoon, I happened upon some potato soup that looked innocuous, and to be honest the steady stream of salad I was eating was fast becoming mundane. I grabbed a bowl and picked up the ladle, only to discover pieces of bacon in said soup. This may have been the universe’s way of saying, “Don’t eat that! It’s horribly bad for you, and full of useless calories that no amount of Ultimate Frisbee practice will work off!” Regardless, I was starving and I did not want to eat salad, and darn it all, they had tofu at the vegan line again. Had I been less observant I may have thought the little pink-ish specks in the soup were red peppers, and instead I would have taken a bite before realizing that no, this was really ground up bits of pig. Considering the population of Jewish students at Colgate who don’t eat pork, you would think that Frank would say something about what’s in its dishes lest an unsuspecting student should help him-or-herself to something they can’t actually eat. But I digress; instead, I headed back to the salad bar and forgot my disappointment about the soup when I discovered the crunchy peanut butter.

My week as a vegetarian gave me quite a bit of insight into what my herbivorous friends face. Being a vegetarian (but especially a vegan) is difficult, but it’s harder in college, where the options are limited and you’re never really sure if they used beef broth in that minestrone. I’m glad I understand the sacrifice vegetarians make, and I certainly respect that decision even more than I did before. Would I be one, though? Eh…I’ll be over there getting a chicken quesadilla.