I want to take you all back to a year ago. I was sitting with my Rose, Lydia, in New Dorm Dining Hall. I had a plate of red meat, and she had a plate of legumes and greens. I stifled a giggle, and she looked at me. She knew I was laughing about the difference in our diets. Me: a proud meat eater who ate some sort of animal in every meal. Lydia: a vegan who ate whole foods and lived a healthy lifestyle. I explained to her how I simply did not get it. She said maybe I should just try it. The stifled giggle became a belly laugh. Me? Not eating meat? Hilarious.
I have Italian, Scotch-Irish, Pennsylvania Dutch and French roots: all of the cultural cuisines contain many animals to be consumed and enjoyed. I grew up doing so. St. Patrick’s Day? A giant slab of corned beef on the table. Oktoberfest? Spaetzle and sausage. For Christmas Eve, my family always celebrated with a typical Seven Fishes Dinner. I had no limits – I loved all of it. My mother’s Easter lamb rack is particularly delicious.
Recently, however, my good friend (and fellow tour guide) Anna West decided to go vegan for a month. I watched her do so, still making my ham and cheese omelette for breakfast and chicken salad for dinner. She completed her month, and I still ate many animals.
After a Saturday tour shift, Anna talked to me and another fellow tour guide, Saskia, about being vegan. I am not quite sure about how we got onto this topic, but Anna asked us if we were willing to do a challenge.
That challenge? A month of being vegan.
Saskia and I looked at each other, and then looked at our brunch plates. There was milk, eggs, sausage, bacon, and yogurt. We looked at each other again, and then sealed our fate.
“Sure!” We both said. Anna smiled, and then it all began.
The day before the challenge began, Anna drove us to Ardmore (a nearby town which the Blue Bus stops at every Saturday,) and showed us what we could eat and what we could not eat. She showed us all the delicious vegan snacks and how to read labels. Of course, we could not go to Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods every day, but it was a helpful learning experience.
What we really needed to learn, however, was how to navigate the dining halls. Our normal meals had to completely change. We had to learn what was okay for us to eat, and what was not. Some things might be vegetarian, but they would not be vegan. Today, I went for some kimchi, and I saw on the label “vege,” not “vegan.” As it turns out, it contains anchovies.
Anna sends us a text every morning, and answers our frantic questions about what is vegan and what is not vegan. (Plain bagels are vegan, honey is not.) So far, Saskia and I are doing alright! One of us may have accidentally had some chicken today (Saskia…), but otherwise we are enjoying trying things that we would not have otherwise considered.
New Dorm Dining Hall is rated “A” for providing for those who follow a vegan diet, and this is very helpful for my month-long adventure. The “RootED” bar that the dining hall is what I go to now. I can get beet salad, chipotle cauliflower, buffalo tofu, and so much more – all vegan (and plant based!)
At Erdman Dining Hall, I cook tofu, broccoli, beans and edamame with soy sauce and throw on some chili powder at the stir fry stations. We are allowed to take the fresh fruit that the dining hall provides, and I find myself stealing many bananas. My family nickname of “monkey” is now starting to make a little more sense. (Bananas and peanut butter are my vice.) Erdman has a refrigerator by the coffee station that has dairy milk substitutes, as well. Almond, soy, etc. I tried the rice milk they had, and fell in love. It tastes so creamy – just like half and half!
I am having so much fun exploring the dining halls and seeing what my next vegan meal will be. The best part? The Dining Services of Bryn Mawr make it so easy. If you’re vegetarian or vegan, you are still able to eat and eat well, both in a practical and delicious sense.
Anna, Saskia and I have plans to go to vegan restaurants in Philly to get some more delicious food and vegan inspiration. We did a dramatic reading in the dining hall of one of the menus, and my mouth was watering.
Bryn Mawr is helping me stay vegan for this month. And who knows? I may be joining Lydia and Anna in the ranks of the vegans. I certainly know that Bryn Mawr will help me eat well if I continue. I’ll keep you all updated.
This week’s music recommendation comes from what I listened to today while I was standing at the stir fry station making my tofu salad: “Trampoline” by SHAED. I hope this week brings you joy, bliss, and the start of something new.