Slim Pickings

Chronicle Staff


By Jordan Freisleben and Jean Park

Strolling through the cafeteria during a deserted seventh period, Errol Bilgin ’11 makes his way from the glass case containing donuts and cupcakes to the mini fridge holding yogurt and milk cartons. Along the way, he points out the few things he is able to eat as a vegan.

Bilgin has struggled to maintain his diet at school.

After limiting himself to fruits and bare vegetables during the first few weeks, he has since begun to learn more and more about the nutritional flexibilities of a vegan diet. He started eating a few more snacks, but he always feels unsatisfied with his minimal food intake.

“It’s really difficult for vegans to eat the hot foods at the cafeteria,” Bilgin said. “We’re in the dark because we don’t know what they are cooked in.”

Ellie Diamant ’11, who has been a vegan for two years, also feels unsatisfied with the cafeteria options. Composing her school meals of small snacks, rather than a full meal, Diamant stresses her desire for a full vegan meal on a daily basis at the cafeteria that can be served as “hot food.”

“I definitely don’t think they do a good enough job offering vegan food,” Diamant said. “Although they do have some nice vegan snacks, they usually don’t have main courses that are vegan, other than cereal and rice.”

Art instructor Marianne Hall, a vegan, finds most of her dietary needs sufficiently met by the cafeteria’s vegan options, such as the “excellent salad bar with a variety of fresh and delicious ingredients [where] some form of vegan protein is usually included.”

Hall has a few suggestions for the cafeteria to take into consideration as well.

“I would love it if there would be a non-starchy form of vegan protein — tofu or soy ‘meat’ — available every day,” Hall said.

“A variety of stir fried green vegetables such as asparagus, broccoli or spinach, with garlic, would also be wonderful, and avocado is always a treat,” she said.

During a free period a hungry Chanah Haddad ’11 walks into the cafeteria for a snack. While perusing the shelves, she instinctively turns the bag of pretzels over to look at the nutritional information.

Haddad is not looking for the calorie count, but rather for the kashrus label, to see if Jewish dietary laws will allow her to eat the pretzels.

Like many Jewish students, Haddad must buy only food that satisfies her dietary restrictions as well as her appetite. Haddad has to monitor which cafeteria products are kosher and which are not.

“I always eat things without any meat in them, but sometimes there’s stuff that you wouldn’t think are made with animal products,” she said. “I know [now] that the brown rice is cooked in chicken broth.”

Both Haddad and fellow kosher student Jonathan Etra ’11 feel that the cafeteria provides enough options for kosher students.

Although Etra feels that kosher options are available, he feels the choices can, at times, get monotonous.

“[The cafeteria has] kosher friendly options, but in my five years at Harvard-Westlake they haven’t really changed the options,” Etra said. “They’re pretty accommodating, but you’re always looking for something exciting. Everything has been more or less the same since 7th grade.”