Force-fed vegetarian food?

Adapting to the café’s cuisine

Jordan Zy

As you grew up, your parents probably made your favorite foods—macaroni, pancakes, tater tots, hot dogs, PB&J. They also made you eat things you didn’t want, like corn or broccoli.

As you grew older, your palette expanded. Those veggies suddenly weren’t so bad. Your taste buds started craving fancier soups, salads and sandwiches, and you began to like the quiche or quinoa that you would have hated as a child. Perhaps you even tried brand-new dishes like tikka masala, falafel or phở that never showed up on the menu you grew up with.

Like many others in this student body, I grew up strictly vegetarian. As my devout Seventh-day Adventist grandfather once said, “If you accidentally eat pork, that’s okay. You’ll just die before you go to heaven.” He was joking, of course, but being vegetarian can become a sort of religion in itself.

Starting at about age 13, I slowly became an omnivore. Meat is delicious, there is no denying it. After my first McNugget I couldn’t get enough. But I never revoked my past love for veggie meat, either. Maybe I'm an outlier, but I learned to enjoy the best of both worlds.

Some Union students weren’t raised vegetarian. For these omnivores, our top-of-the-line cafeteria food may be a culture shock. Dishes are served claiming to have “chicken,” “steak” or “turkey,” but what is in them is far from it. Those who were not raised on the Morningstar Farms and Worthington brands of meat substitutes detest the stuff. And who could blame you? When you expect to taste glorious bacon and end up with a mouthful of stripples, you’re gonna have a bad time.

Despite the bacon-stripple disparity, I want to challenge those of you who aren’t used to eating vegetarian substitutes to look at the situation from a new perspective. Instead of seeing the “fake” meat options in the cafeteria as something that is supposed to taste like what it looks like, I hope you will think of it as trying an entirely new dish.

Don’t expect the dinner roast to taste like turkey, or big franks to taste like a beef dog, because you’ll always be disappointed. If you went to a foreign country, you wouldn’t try a local dish hoping it tastes exactly like mac and cheese or blueberry muffins. You’d take that first bite knowing that you’re tasting something you’ve never tried before.

I’m not saying you’re going to suddenly love vegetarian substitutes, but give Union Market a chance. Maybe you’ll fall in love with something new.

Jordan is a senior studying psychology.