Unpopular Opinion: A Non-Vegan’s Take on Vegan Day

Jesse Harris, Contributing Writer

Recently, Colgate Dining Services launched its first-ever plant-based event, Root for You, which took over Frank Dining Hall with entirely vegan options for both lunch and dinner. Although I had seen the mini flyers spread out across the tables for days leading up to the event, to be honest, I hadn’t paid much attention to them. Hence, when Feb. 17 rolled around, Vegan Day came as a pleasant surprise.

Now, I’m not going to pretend that Vegan Day permanently converted me to veganism, or that I even know what PAOW stands for. Truthfully, I had low expectations for Vegan Day. Growing up, I had eaten more than my fair share of both red and white meat, and, despite my love for animals, have experienced no remorse (although I do feel cruel admitting that). Thus, I had never really considered changing up my diet, and I also know that if I tried, I would be very, very bad at it — two of my best friends are vegetarian, and on a number of separate occasions I have innocently asked each of them to split an order of chicken nuggets with me.

So I figured I would be lucky to find something that even vaguely resembled a food I’m familiar with at Frank’s Root for You event. Walking in, I did not expect to encounter delicious-looking vegan pizza, tacos, and even something that looked like chicken (in retrospect, that might have been the PAOW). I rushed straight over to the vegan pizza and filled my plate with the one topped with some type of pepperoni and cauliflower mix. After gathering our food, my friends and I then looked around the dining hall to find a table, and to our surprise once again, Frank was full. Clearly, Vegan Day was a hit, as we struggled to find any open seat for the next 10 minutes.

When we finally sat down, I tasted my pizza and found that not only was it much better than I had expected, but it was one of the best meals I’d had at Frank the entire year. Needless to say, I returned that night for a vegan dinner and was impressed by that meal as well, so much so that I gave the vegan cookies and oat milk ice cream a try. But I realized that what I found most exciting about Vegan Day was not the vegan options at all — it was the change. Being a picky eater, I’ve held on tight to the meals I’ve found at Colgate that I do enjoy. A change in my routine, therefore, did not sound so appealing to me, but I did not anticipate it to be the change itself that would bring the excitement.

Vegan Day came at the perfect time: Feb. 17 marked just under a month that we had been back on campus, which was enough time for us to comfortably readjust to our everyday routines, but also just enough time for us to start to itch of boredom. Deep in the middle of winter with seemingly eternal gray skies looming over us daily, the days have begun to blend together, becoming indistinguishable. Therefore, Frank’s first themed event of the semester brought about a momentary blip in our everyday patterns, prompting us to expand our meal choices and converse about something other than the kid in our class who was newly close-contacted.

There is also something to be said about the fact that Frank chose to go vegan, of all food variations, for its first event. It’s a bit ironic that Colgate opted for veganism, considering you can’t get in and out of campus without passing plenty of cows. With 94 million cows in the United States and it feeling like the majority of them surround our campus, Frank’s Vegan Day seems like either a satiric choice or an honest tribute to the cows of Upstate New York.

Regardless of the intention behind Vegan Day, the themed event proved successful and I, for one, am looking forward to how Colgate Dining Services decides to switch it up next. Naturally, this past event did not go over without some complaints, particularly from athletic teams, I’m sure, who were at a loss over how to reach their protein goal when the signs everywhere read “PAOW” rather than “CHICKEN.” However, for a themed event to elicit zero-backlash seems unrealistic, and thus I think Frank should take pride in its Vegan Day because as a self-proclaimed representative non-vegan, I’d call it a success.

Although I almost wish I could conclude by telling you about my recent switch to veganism, that wouldn’t be the truth. After returning from dinner that Wednesday night, I did lamely announce to the delight of my vegetarian roommate that I would try to go vegan, based on two successful meals, but unfortunately my dream was short-lived once she reminded me that my go-to ice cream is not vegan. Ultimately, Frank’s Root For You event sparked a change in my everyday life for which I am thankful. I feel ready to tackle whatever they propose next, although I might be more excited for the change itself than for its environmental implications.