By Estefania Lahera ’20
Disclaimer: I am by no means against vegetarian or vegan diets. That’s every individual’s personal choice, whether for ethical or health reasons, and not my place to comment. I myself am quite fond of vegetables, and despite recent indulgences for the sake of my sanity Crave articles, I actually probably eat around 70-80% vegetables. I love vegetables. In fact, I might be considered a bit of a health nut. Which is why this issue I’m about to talk about is so upsetting.
Over the summer I attended a Harvard pre-orientation program, and unsurprisingly the schedule was jam packed. One day, we had a catered lunch from a local restaurant.
“Okay, line up over here for food,” the program coordinator instructed, and added, “the vegetarian option is along the back wall”
I surveyed my options:
A weird flat noodle dish.
Was that a stir fry? I couldn’t tell.
Carbs on carbs on carbs. On grease. With a smidge of protein.
But perhaps the vegetarian options would offer me solace?
The vegetarian option was the exact same as the meat dishes, if you just swapped chicken (a sketchy, stringy chicken) for tofu. Considering that tofu is extremely absorbent, it might actually be worse.
This is a common dilemma I’ve encountered when attending catered events. I’m sick and tired of cold pizza, of fried and an abused salad (which is to say a salad overwhelmed by unhealthy additions).
Don’t get me wrong: I love to indulge. I love burgers and pizza and elaborate desserts, just not on the casual level. To me, those are treats, and should not be eaten during work or in a rush, only on special occasions.
And so it pains me that almost every time vegetarians and vegans are accommodated, but there are never any accommodations for straight up healthy food. I don’t mean fad diet healthy food, I mean common sense healthy food: vegetables and lean proteins with little if any grease, perhaps a minimally processed starch or carbohydrate. No preservatives, no MSG, no food colorings or chemical conditioners (check your bread labels… it’s there). Organic would be nice too, but maybe that’s too far (even though it shouldn’t be).
This might sound elitist, spoiled, stuck up even.
But since when has eating healthy become a privilege of the upper class?
Why can’t everyone demand better quality food, and moreover, fight for it to be affordable? I understand that a major concern with healthy food is that it’s more expensive, but don’t tell me that companies like Kraft and Kellog and Kroger don’t have CEOs making extreme profits, who could probably all survive a pay cut that could trickle down and lower prices.
I don’t claim to have a solution, but for now I’m going to go with the assumption that everyone is entitled to healthy options.
So when you tell me my options are tofu soaked in grease, or chicken soaked in grease, I’m not happy.
Vegan diets, vegetarian diets can be great. They have every potential to be fulfilling and nutritious.
But sugar is vegan. Refined white flour is vegan. Speculoos cookie butter is vegan.
Pizza is vegetarian. Mac n cheese is vegetarian. Ice cream is vegetarian.
The problem is not the diet restrictions but the ways in which they can be misconstrued.
I had a friend a couple years ago who told me very seriously, “ I’m on a diet! I’m going vegan for a month.”
“Oh really?” I said, “how that’s working out for you?”
“Peanut butter sandwiches are my best friend,” she replied.
I didn’t have the heart to tell her that she probably wouldn’t be losing a significant amount of weight.
While I can’t say that peanut butter is unhealthy, per se, I can say that it’s extremely caloric, and too much is a bad idea, especially if you don’t vary your diet. Moreover, unfortunately the cheapest varieties or peanut butter and white bread are refined such that they are stripped of nutrients, and stuffed with sugar, preservatives, oils often derived from petroleum, and other creepy chemicals.
You might that that it’s different for vegans/vegetarians, because they might choose that diet for ethical reason, not just health reasons.
But guess what? I am too. I am ethically opposed to the corruption of the food industry, putting chemicals and other creepy additives in my food and expecting me to deal with it. That’s unethical, to trick the American public because they are too busy to read labels or can’t afford better, to have to settle for interior products.
And so while I realize that this post is unrealistic, that providing healthy options at catered functions is probably too expensive for complex reasons that are far too big for a college student, I long for the day that pure, wholesome, healthy food will be offered, and not just cold pizza.
By Dana Ferrante ’17
There’s nothing like going from HUDS café to HUDS café and realizing that each one, as you feared, is serving the same assortment of lackluster pastries. With the integration of Hi-Rise Bread Company items on its menu, the reopening of the Barker Café seemed promising, yet the jury is still out on whether or not the Barker Café is really worth one’s precious Board Plus.
For these, and many more reasons, I am excited to announce: there’s a new pastry on campus. Better yet, pastries.
It’s called Feel Good Cake, and it comes in two equally tempting flavors: Chocolate and Orange Chia. Not your average cupcakes, these creations are completely guilt-free, meaning no matter if you’re gluten free, paleo, vegan, or just generally concerned about what you put into your body, you can enjoy the cupcakes without a second thought. Despite the common misconception that healthy versions of desserts never live up to original recipes, these muffins are rich, moist, and full of real flavor. Best of all, they are convenient, and will soon be available in Lamont Café, Cabot Café and Sebastian’s Café at the School of Public Health.
The masterminds behind these muffins are none other than two Harvard students. A little over a year ago, juniors Alice Han and Nina Hooper launched their company, The Holistic, in Harvard’s Innovation Lab, and have been perfecting their recipes ever since. Substituting avocado and ground chickpeas for the traditional butter and flour, Han and Hooper are committed to using organic, nutrient-dense ingredients in all of their products. Instead of sugar, the muffins are sweetened with agave nectar, meaning they are free from refined sugars, and have a lower glycemic index than normal cupcakes. In this way, Han explains, The Holistic products are also a good transition food for those with diabetes as they try to cut out foods that will raise their blood sugar too quickly. And the icing on the cake? A creamy chocolate ganache made from avocado, agave and cocoa.
Aside from being super-foodies, the duo has traveled around the world, most recently with a portable oven and suitcases packed with more ingredients than clothes, sharing their creations with people all over. Han explains, “we wanted to see how people reacted to our product,” while also trying to figure out “what makes people feel good about the food they eat.” Whether it was Dubai or Finland, Australia or Japan, Han says they spent a lot of time learning how other cultures eat healthfully and alternatively to the stereotypical American diet, with the hope of incorporating this knowledge into their future recipes.
Last year, The Holistic competed in the Harvard Undergraduate Women in Business Innovation Competition, making it to the second to last round with their guilt-less treats. They were also recently featured in Boston Magazine and hope to present their product to the regional division of Whole Foods later on in the semester. In the meantime, The Holistic continues to offer catering for on campus events.
As previously mentioned, The Holistic recently approached HUDS about stocking their products, and the muffins will soon be sold in Lamont Café as part of a trial run. Based on their reception, HUDS could begin offering them at more locations on campus — now that would be a sweet deal.
by Caroline Gentile ’17
I walked into the Reggie Lewis Athletic Center on Sunday afternoon and followed my nose to the gymnasium, where hundreds of vegetarian and vegan food vendors had set up shop. Let me start out by saying this: I am not vegetarian, nor am I a vegan. I love meat and I love animal products. In fact, I am usually skeptical of vegetarian and vegan food, especially when it resembles what I think of as ‘normal’ food. So what was I doing at a food festival that only served food of which I’m usually skeptical?
Well, I wanted to learn and I wanted to try new things. After all, most vegan and vegetarian food aims to replace their non-vegetarian or non-vegan counterparts, like cheese and meat. What intrigues me most about these kinds of foods is that if they are not actually cheese or meat or the like, then what are they?
The first food I tried as I entered the festival was nacho cheese dip from the O2 Yoga stand. I was surprised when it actually tasted like nacho cheese! Intrigued, I asked what it was made of: cashew, potato, carrot, shallot, onion, sunflower seeds, lemon juice, and spices.
As it turns out, vegan “cheese” usually has a cashew base, as I found out from several other vendors who sold it. Nuttin Ordinary, another vendor, boasted cashew cheese spread made from 100% raw cashews and no added oils, which was delicious. The consistency was like that of goat cheese, and the flavor itself was very cheesy. A few stands over was Teese, which was also giving out samples of vegan nacho cheese with a cashew base. All three “cheeses” that I sampled are available at Whole Foods, and all were delicious.
Many of the vendors were selling and offering free samples of vegan baked goods. FoMu, a bakery and ice cream store located in both Allston and Jamaica Plain, had an assortment of baked goods and ice creams. I decided to try their best seller, the Magic Bar, which is made of shredded coconut, pecan, vegan chocolate, and a dulce de leche base. It tasted like a tried-and-true, absolutely not-vegan seven-layer-bar. I kept telling myself that it was healthy because it was vegan, but there is no way that something that tasted so good was healthy!
Another standout bakery at the festival was Sabertooth Bakery, located in Jamaica Plain by the Forest Hills T-stop, which had a variety of flavors of vegan donuts, like butterfinger, Reese’s peanut butter cup, blueberry crumble, earl grey, powdered sugar and lemon, and peanut butter and jelly. I opted to try the PB&J donut, and it was one of the best donuts I have ever had. The consistency was different from normal donuts in that it was less cakey and more dense. In fact, it was almost like a muffin. Nevertheless, I was quite a fan.
I also had to sample a Mompop, from a vendor from Pennsylvania whose company is called—you guessed it—Mompops. Both vegan and gluten free, these popsicles are made of fruit, coconut milk, agave syrup, and water, and are only 89 calories. I tried the banana raspberry cream, and my friend tried the chocolate sea salt. Both were very light and refreshing.
To accompany all of the vendors who were selling vegan ice cream, there was also a vegan hot fudge stand. Coop’s hot fudge is made right here in Boston, and uses coconut oil and coconut cream instead of milk and butter. It honestly tasted just like real hot fudge. And if hot fudge wasn’t enough, there was also a stand for vegan whipped cream, with one variety made of rice and the other of soy.
The highlight of the festival for me and my friend was definitely the Dandies stand, which was giving out free samples of their gelatin-free, vegan marshmallows. My friend started keeping kosher a few years ago, so she had not been able to eat gelatin, and thus marshmallows until she tried Dandies’s marshmallows. Much denser and stickier than normal marshmallows, Dandies did not disappoint. In fact, I think I like them more than regular marshmallows. I’ll be sure to look out for them at Whole Foods.
Posha’s natural post-workout nutrition shake was the only sample I did not like, but I had known for a fact before trying it that I did not like plant-based protein powder.
Overall, I would say that my day at the Boston Vegetarian Food Festival was a success; I learned a lot about how certain specialty vegan and vegetarian foods are made, and I learned that I actually liked a lot of them!
By Katja Lierhaus ’16
It’s 7:30pm on a Thursday,and there is already a line out the door. Located on a street corner in Central Square, Life Alive might not seem like it would be a popular offering, since it serves what some people consider “hippie food,” but meat-lovers and vegetarians alike flock to feast at this laid-back and humble food joint.
The moment you enter the comfortable yet quirky space, you can’t help but feel relaxed. As their menu reads, you truly cross into a “world of delicious, organic, and therapeutic food, created with love to feed your vitality.”The food here is meant to heal, nurture, and strengthen the body. Everything is fresh and wholesome, but also incredibly delicious. With options for omnivore, vegetarian, vegan, macrobiotic, raw, gluten-free and other diets, fantastic taste is never compromised.
Life Alive offer a wide assortment of teas, fresh pressed juices, smoothies (made coconut ice cream instead of milk), salads, wraps, udon noodle bowls, and side snacks.
However, their main dishes and most popular items are the rice/quinoa bowls with steamed veggies, topped with a certain je-ne-se-quoi, kick-ass, unbelievable, out of this world, #yourtastebudswillthankyou sauce. Trust me, I’ve tried to create their bowls at home: I can’t come close to the awesome goodness they somehow incorporate in their sauce.
You won’t find any meat options here, but I am certain anyone can find a dish they are crazy about. I brought my big, Rugby-playing, protein-loving friend here before, and he loved the “Hot and Healthy Bachelor,” which consists of melted cheddar, hardboiled egg, broccoli flowers, dark greens, Braggs and nutritional yeast, all nestled in a soft whole-wheat tortilla. He also downed the “Elvis Alive” smoothie: peanut butter, cocoa, banana, coconut ice cream, and rice milk. I swear, anyone will love this place.
I have tried almost every main dish at this point and I have never been disappointed. All of the veggie bowls offer something different. This time I chose to sit in the basement where they have live music is played every Thursday night. Here people are chatting about the week on couches topped with pillows, against a backdrop of empowering aphorisms and colorful, geometric art.
My thoughts about midterms and p-sets melt away. A waitress brings my “Carrot Cake Alive” smoothie and “Rebel Bowl” and I am in a total bliss. The Rebel Bowl is both juicy and crunchy, oozing with sesame ginger nama sauce with flax oil, enlivening carrots, beets, broccoli, dark greens, legumes and hijiki, which is all over quinoa and short grain brown rice. I slowly devour this beautiful display of food as I sip the not-too-sweet smoothie.
I could eat there every day, which is why I am often thankful it is located in Central Square. (It is about a fifteen-minute walk from the yard going east on Mass Ave past Berry Line, and Crate and Barrel.) Any closer, and I would seriously eat there every meal, which would mean I would be broke in no time.
Life Alive. Go, and you’ll never look back.
By Katja Lierhaus ’16
We are a “species designed to love meat.” Bacon for breakfast, turkey for lunch, and a hamburger for dinner — we are a nation of meat eaters. Yet for the vegetarians scattering our globe, how would they respond to beef grown in the lab? This manufactured beef, a five year research project led by Dr. Mark Post of Maastricht University, is grown from the stem cells of an organic cow’s muscle tissue. While some vegetarians or vegans may reject the lab-grown beef claiming that it still originates from a mammal, those who simply do not eat meat for ethical and environmental reasons have something to celebrate about.
Grown beef has the ability to solve our world’s most pressing problem: feeding our growing population. It is estimated that there will be 9.5 billion people by 2050, and therefore two times the current demand for meat. Post’s innovative technology provides food security to meet this demand. Just a few muscle-specific cow cells can grow to ten tons of meat. This resourcefulness means that we have the power to provide an endless supply of meat. Cows, on the other hand, are extremely inefficient; it takes 100 grams of vegetable protein to equal fifteen grams of edible animal. Lab-grown beef eliminates this inequality between food input and output.
Not only will this beef provide food security, but it will also provide numerous environmental benefits. Right now 30% of the total world’s surface is covered with pasture lands for livestock. Comparatively, only 4% of the Earth’s surface is used to directly feed humans. With a world that will have to grow 70% more food by 2050 just to keep up with the population, it makes sense to do away with such a resource intensive product. Replacing these cows with crops also means less CO2 and methane, a greenhouse gas twenty-four times more powerful than CO2. Livestock, which contribute to 40% of all methane and 5% of all CO2 emissions, are clearly a massive pollutant. In fact, if the meat demand doubles, livestock could contribute to half the negative climate impact as all of the world’s cars, buses, and aircraft. Moreover, fifteen hundred gallons of water are used to make only one pound of meat. In a world where clean water will most certainly become a precious commodity, we could be using that water for more useful applications such as crop irrigation and drinking. Consequently, less cows means less adverse environmental impacts and an overall cleaner world.
Perhaps the most convincing argument to vegetarians is that lab-grown beef will eliminate the need to slaughter cows. Animal cruelty will be eradicated due to the fact that we will not need industrial sized cattle farms. As seen in the documentary Food, Inc., it’s no secret how big corporations treat their animals: cows are crammed into tight quarters, fed processed grains, and given injections of antibiotics necessary to lessen the chance of disease due to overcrowding. Post’s beef eliminates all of this.
While the grown beef is all well and good, many believe that it is distracting us from the main problem: humans eat too much meat. Consuming red meat has been correlated with a 20% increase in the risk of heart disease and cancer. Although Post’s beef in present form is pure protein, he and his team are looking to add lab-grown fat cells and something that would resemble blood vessels in order to resemble the taste and texture of real beef. Thus, his creation could be just as unhealthy as meat coming straight from the cow. The answer, although ideal, would have humans rejecting beef altogether. Less demand would mean less meat production. This total rejection, however, is perhaps unreasonable.
Anthropologist Richard Wrangham of Harvard University believes that humans will not stop eating meat in the near future. He claims that what drove us to eat meat was part of our evolutionary past and that we have been eating meet for the past 2.5 million years. A hunter showing up with an animal ready to be placed over the fire was a cause for dancing and celebration – showing up empty-handed was a different story. The protein in meat allowed humans to grow bigger brains and become the species we are today.
So while world-wide vegetarianism is a transition unlikely to happen in the next thirty years, lab-grown beef is the interim answer to our potential food shortage as well as environmental crises. Although many vegetarians will still be munching on lentils and carrots, those who reject meat for the ethical and environmental reasons can now breathe a sigh of relief. Furthermore, Post has paved the way toward a cleaner and healthier planet. It is the next step, limiting our meat consumption, which will mitigate the demand for beef – lab-grown or genuine – and the need for industrially produced beef cows. Simply changing our habits is the answer to this paramount problem. While evolution may have sustained our love of meat, only we have the ability to become vegetarians for the good of our currently evolving world.
For more startling statistics, visit: http://www.salon.com/2014/09/17/red_meat_is_destroying_the_planet_and_the_frankenburger_could_help_save_it_partner/
“Google burger: Sergey Brin explains why he funded world’s first lab-grown beef hamburger – video.” The Guardian, 5 Aug. 2013, 22 Sept. 2013 <http://www.theguardian.com/science/video/2013/aug/05/google-burger-sergey-brin-lab-grown-hamburger>.
Alok Jha, “Synthetic meat: how the world’s costliest burger made it on to the plate,” 5 Aug. 2013 22 Sept. 2013 <http://www.theguardian.com/science/2013/aug/05/synthetic-meat-burger-stem-cells>.
David H. Freedman, “Are Engineered Foods Evil?,” Scientific American September 2013: 82.
Alok Jha, “First lab-grown hamburger gets full marks for ‘mouth feel’,” 6 Aug. 2013, 22 Sept. 2013 < http://www.theguardian.com/science/2013/aug/05/world-first-synthetic-hamburger-mouth-feel>.
Kate Wong, “The First Cookout,” Scientific American September 2013: 68.
By Katja Lierhaus ’16
These vegan cookies are incredibly flavorful and take only about 15 minutes of prep work with no baking required. The cookie base consists of oats and cashews with a creamy undertone. To complement the nuttiness of the cookie, the berry jam is fresh and delivers the right amount of fruitiness. These cookies are actually quite healthy, and so delicious that you just may eat the whole batch and not feel an ounce of guilt! This recipe makes 12 cookies, plus extra jam to fill two small mason jars.
¾ cups cashews
¾ cups rolled oats
2 tbl coconut oil
¼ tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup fresh berries (raspberries, blueberries, etc.)
½ cup water
3 tbl chia seeds
½ cup dates
For the cookies-
Grind the cashews, coconut oil, and vanilla extract in a processor or blender until it forms a thick butter. Add the oats and the dates and pulse until it begins to stick together. Form into thumbprint cookies on wax paper and place in the fridge for at least an hour.
For the berry jam-
Add 2 tbl chia seeds to the water. Wait 10-15 minutes or until a thick, gelatinous consistency is achieved. Separately in a food processor or blender, blend the berries and the dates together until thoroughly combined. Add the remaining 1tbl of chia seeds and blend. Mix the water + chia gelatinous mixture with the blended berries and fill the cookies in with the jam.
Can keep in the refrigerator for up to three days.
(adapted from thisrawsomeveganlife.com)
By Katja Lierhaus ’16
I walk into Red Lentil and the garish green walls immediately overwhelm me. I don’t know where to look. My eyes jump from the white square ceiling tiles to the oddly fancy linens. The haphazardly placed tables add to my initial confusion. As the hostess leads my sister and I to a table next to the window, I wish that we just went to Life Alive in Central Square. At the first glance of the menu, however, I know that this place will be good. The menu offers eclectic cuisine options – edamame to a hummus platter, Belgian sweet potato fries to chips and guacamole, Chimichurri Seitan and Jamaican Jerk Tempeh to Pistachio & Coconut Herb-Encrusted Tofu. I now begin to understand the seemingly random décor of the restaurant.
As my sister and I peruse the menu, we share a nonalcoholic ginger brew. Reed’s Original is light and does not have an overwhelming amount of fizz. As my sister put it, it has the “perfect amount of ginger punch.” If you’re sensitive to ginger’s tanginess and sharpness, this drink is the perfect introduction to the exotic spice.
We finally decide to start with Gobi Manchurian – cauliflower tossed with Indian seasonings, breaded with chickpea flour, fried, and finished with sweet and spicy tomato sauce and fresh cilantro – and the Hummus Platter – pita slices served with chipotle hummus and accompanied by baba ganoush (flame-broiled eggplant), red pepper dip, and olives. These two dishes pair perfectly with each other. The cauliflower isn’t overly breaded or oily. Although I wouldn’t say it is light, the seasonings awaken my palette leaving me satisfied with just a few pieces. This dish alone could be easily split between 2-4 people as a starter. The hummus platter is also a delight to the senses. The pita bread was soft with an ever-so-light crunch and the three dips—hummus, a spicy red pepper dip, and baba ganoush— pair perfectly together.
The next round is a healthy serving of the Kale Carnivale Salad – kale with sweet roasted corn kernels, apple, jicama, red cabbage and tamari almonds, tossed in creamy tahini maple dressing – and Moussaka Pizza – grilled eggplant, grilled onion, roasted red pepper, goat cheese, and mozzarella cheese topped with fresh basil. My sister and I are a little disappointed with the kale salad. The maple doesn’t shine through the dressing and the apples, jicama, and corn aren’t discernable enough for our taste. Although it isn’t bad, I wouldn’t order it again.
The pizza is also a little lackluster. We chose the gluten free crust, which was thin, crunchy, and a little sweet – everything I could ask for in a thin crust pizza. However, the melted mozzarella cheese dominates the pizza. It unfortunately masks the earthiness of the eggplant, the sweetness of the onions, and the deep flavor of the red peppers. The goat cheese, however, enhances the pizza by offering surprise bites of creamy tang.
Shamelessly a little stuffed for the night, I begin to plan another trip, particularly for brunch where they offer eggs, omelets, tofu scramble, vegan waffles, French toast, and pancakes, and even vegan gluten-free pancakes. The latter I will try the next visit as anything vegan and/or gluten free intrigues me. What then are they made out of?! Made with sweet potatoes and dates and served with a fresh fruit compote and maple blueberry sauce, these pancakes are a must-try for my next visit.
Found at 600 Mt. Auburn Street in Watertown, Red Lentil is located two miles east of Harvard Square and is a must-try for those who enjoy eclectic cuisine. Simply follow Mt Auburn Street toward Watertown by bike, zipcar, or by foot if you want to go for a little bit of a walk until 600. Alternatively, you could take the 71 busline right from Harvard Square toward Watertown Square via Mt. Auburn St. Get off at Mt Auburn St @ Kimball Rd, and then by foot, head southwest on Mt Auburn St toward Kimball Rd. Red Lentil will be on the right. This trip takes about 15 minutes by car.
Note: The chef of Red Lentil worked closely with HUDS to develop new vegetarian and vegan options this year as well as the kale and beet burger, and sweet potato and black bean burger. Also, if Red Lentil is too far from campus, they offer delivery service through the app Diningin.