One of the easiest things to complain about at Brandeis University is, without even a moment’s hesitation, the food. Sodexo has undoubtedly been the recipient of some of the heaviest criticisms at this school—oftentimes painted as though the workers purposefully sabotage the food, Sodexo just cannot seem to please the student body no matter what it does. The Facebook group “Sodexo Fan Club” is a testament to this; members of the club post pictures with sarcastic captions about the quality of the food. I’m not trying to say that these criticisms are unfounded; however, there are probably more important things to complain about to make Brandeis an even better place. Even so, students appear to be in an uproar about Sodexo’s latest meatless day.
Although I suspect this shouldn’t be surprising to me, it still is. I’ve grown increasingly accustomed to the complaints I hear about the supposed lack of food and poor quality thereof and have even voiced my own occasionally, but in no way does that mean I think that the majority of the flak about the latest meatless Monday was necessary.
For one, forgoing meat for one day shouldn’t be such a huge deal. This statement is even more pertinent considering that it’s not like every Monday is meatless, and it is also untrue that students are forced to go meatless (they can always go to the other dining hall if need be). Although it may be true that a meatless day is something that can be advertised better so that people can make a judgment before entering the dining hall, it is also true that Brandeisians should pay more attention to their surroundings—there’s always a sign at the swipe in section advertising the theme of the dining hall, so it is possible to avoid Sherman during meatless days.
Beyond that, when there are so many options, there is bound to be something that will equally satisfy a person’s hunger that isn’t meat. Quite frankly, people take advantage of a multitude of meatless options without thinking about it. Pizza, soups, pasta and salads are all meatless options that people enjoy on a daily basis; even so, when the dining hall does not offer meat options, students cannot seem to handle it. The ugly truth is that we have all grown too accustomed to the options provided us, so even though we always have seven or eight options to choose from each day, we can’t help but take those options for granted.
As a full supporter of occasional meatless days, I recognize the sustainable implications of going even just one meal without the much-desired meat. Anyone who has taken even an introductory biology course knows that food webs are sustained via rather inefficient energy transformations. Humans have manipulated this system to provide exorbitant amounts of meat to the individuals at the top of the food chain, a system that as human populations increase will only continue to exacerbate dwindling resources. It also forces people to realize that it is more than possible to go a day without meat and that half of the options that they already enjoy just happen to be meatless. It is a small sacrifice for the school, and I admire both Brandeis’ and Sodexo’s aim to make this campus a more sustainable, and less impactful, place.
Some vegetarians were disappointed with the lack of nutritional options, which runs contrary to the company’s promise to “combine our culinary expertise with the knowledge of our clinical dietitians to integrate meatless meal options that meet the nutritional needs of students learning in schools.” As opposed to offering more varied, vegetable based or otherwise wholesome options, what Sodexo lacked in meat it made up for with carbohydrates. Some of the dishes provided were a vegetable quiche, pasta, breadsticks and deep fried eggplant sandwiches.
Though I am an avid supporter of the occasional meatless day, I can’t deny that Sodexo seemed to miss the whole point when meat was provided on the kosher side. As soon as people realized that meat, such as chicken, was offered on the opposite side of the dining hall people seemed to flock in swarms. Not only does this completely negate the whole purpose of having a meatless day, but also completely defies the label “Meatless Monday.” How is it possible to have a meatless day if half the dining hall has meat? If you figure it out, please let me know.