Vegan, Vegetarian != Healthy
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.
Boston Veg Food Fest
Plating Food in Annenberg
by Emily Brother ’19
Inspired by the instagram chef, Jacques La Merde, who mimicked the plating techniques of haute cuisine using junk food, I attempted to create my own gourmet-looking dishes using the food from Annenberg. Here are a few of the plates that I made:
- Vegetarian Frittata Garnished with Carrots, Greens, and Tabasco Sauce
2. Sausage Links with Quinoa Raising & Black Bean Salad and Barbeque Sauce
3. Vegetarian Chili with Lettuce, Green Pepper Sauce, and Dijon Mustard
4. Pound Cake with Yogurt and Red Wine Vinaigrette
5. Chicken Bake with Lima Beans and Ketchup
6. Carrots, Cucumber, and Corn with Balsamic Vinegar
- Granola and Yogurt with Peanut Butter and Strawberry Jelly
8. Herb Roasted Chicken with Penne Pasta and Puttanesca Sauce
2015 Boston Vegetarian Food Festival
Through the Gates with Cambridge Eats
by Emily Brother ’19
A couple of weeks ago, the Freshman Dean’s Office organized a food walking tour that took students to a variety of Cambridge’s best cafes, restaurants, and markets. Below is a list of the places that the group visited followed by a brief description of the food that is served so that when your palate is wanting something different and delicious, you know where to go:
Clover (7 Holyoke St.): Known for using locally grown produce to create delicious vegetarian dishes, Clover is the best place to grab a quick and healthy sandwich on the cheap.
Broadway Market (468 Broadway): Across the street from the Harvard Art Museum, one of the most affordable markets near the Yard. It has everything from fresh fruits and vegetables, baked goods, cheeses, sushi, and more.
Savenor’s Market (92 Kirkland St.): A butcher shop that was supposedly a favorite of Julia Child, Savenor’s sells a plethora of meats. If you’re feeling adventurous, my most exotic finds were Pheasant, alligator, foie gras, rabbit, and buffalo.
The Biscuit (406 Washington St, Somerville, MA): Just a few blocks from Annenberg, The Biscuit is a great café to go to for a nice cup of coffee and a delicious baked treat that is off the beaten trail.
Shiso Kitchen (374 Washington St., Somerville, MA): For those who weren’t able to take Harvard’s Science and Cooking course this semester, you can go to Shiso Kitchen and learn how to prepare foods from places like France, Thailand, and Italy for a variety of occasions. A typical class is anywhere from $50-$100.
Reliable Market (45 Union Square, Somerville, MA): A wonderful Asian food market that sells an endless amount of ingredients commonly used in the preparation of Chinese, Thai, Japanese, and Vietnamese dishes.
Capone Foods (14 Bow St., Somerville): A charming store that specializes in selling fine Italian wines, homemade cheeses, meats, and pasta sheets! This is also the place to get cannolis when you tire of Mike’s Pastry!
Union Square Donuts (20 Bow St., Somerville, MA): A gourmet donut shop that sells delicious donuts including flavors like: Brown Butter Hazelnut Crunch, Sea-Salted Bourbon Caramel, and Boston Cream. You can visit their store (address above) or catch them at the weekly farmer’s market on campus!
Bloc 11 (11 Bow St., Somerville, MA): Not only does Bloc 11 brew amazing fair-trade coffee, it also pays its employees a living wage and benefits while providing them with a comprehensive training program that will prepare them to work in any position in the restaurant.
A Recap of the Boston Vegetarian Food Festival
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!
Life Alive: Organic, Friendly, and Fresh
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.
Petrie Dish Cuisine & the Future of the Meat Industry
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.