Senior returns to Deece for three-week vegan challenge

Senior tour guide Lily Sloss spent three weeks eating vegan meals at ACDC. Through trial and error she sharpened her cooking skills at the stir-fry station where she prepared a zesty tofu dish. Photo By: Spencer Davis
Senior tour guide Lily Sloss spent three weeks eating vegan meals at ACDC. Through trial and error she sharpened her cooking skills at the stir-fry station where she prepared a zesty tofu dish. Photo By: Spencer Davis
Senior tour guide Lily Sloss spent three weeks eating vegan meals at ACDC. Through trial and
error she sharpened her cooking skills at the stir-fry station where she prepared a zesty tofu dish. Photo By: Spencer Davis

“Behind me, you’ll see the All Campus Dining Center, known affectionately on campus as ‘the Deece.’ The options at the Deece are endless, the staff is extremely accommodating—you can eat happily here if you’re gluten-free, vegetarian, kosher or even vegan!” I spouted this line triumphantly to over 75 tours this summer as part of my job as a tour guide, despite having never eaten vegan at the Deece. There was a salad bar, right? What more could a vegan need?

To test my oft-proclaimed promise of happy vegan eating, I spent three weeks eating vegan at the Deece (one meal approximately every other day) to survey the vegan options, and I was pleasantly surprised with the variety.

When I entered the Deece for my first meeting with Head of Dining Services Maureen King, I felt awkward and out of place. People have their “time” at the Deece. Senior year is not it. Freshman year, the Deece is game-changing. I remember bounding in with the fellow group, anxiously avoiding the stir fry station, and loading my plate with the most innocuous looking pasta dish.

The Deece of today is different. It’s perky and bright and has fancy signs (handmade by student Sarah King, of no relation to the esteemed Maureen King). Each station and food is clearly demarcated: vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free. ACDC is, at the very least, a treasure trove of signs. My only regret was the caloric/nutritional signs, which lack the vigor of the “vegan” signs with their inviting plant-themed graphics.

As King led me around the Deece that first afternoon, she discussed methods to streamline the dining experience with different employees. She apologized on behalf of dining services that the pizza station lacked a “vegan option available” sign. An employee who overheard commented, “But what even would be on it?” Ms. King brushed off the question, “Tomato sauce or something.” In my several meals at the Deece, I was always too embarrassed to ask the already often hassled worker behind the pizza counter to make me a vegan pizza. I figured if I wanted bread and tomato sauce that badly, I could stick the ingredients in the panini press.

Maureen informed me of a few crucial vegan elements in the Deece, 1. none of the vegetables are cooked in butter, 2. the stir fry station has gotten tempeh, and 3. if there is a “crumble” in the dessert section, it is vegan. It is at this moment in the tour I spotted a sign heralding a grilled cheese and bacon sandwich, and my mouth began watering.

Think vegan thoughts.

I felt vaguely unenthused about my brief trek into Deece veganism. Undoubtedly, my bias lies in the fact that I am not vegan, and beans, a common vegan protein, make me farty. These three weeks would be quite the digestive experiment (as well as a treat for my boyfriend).

My first vegan mistake is the California burger. It took 20 minutes to cook. I do not blame TC, I blame whoever created these unnatural patties. I watched students order and receive burgers, while I waited and ate my quite satisfying tower of sliced pickles. Once I finally tasted the California burger, I was woefully disappointed. It tasted like my old boxer Clementine’s dog food looked. As a “dessert,” I mixed “Brad’s Granola,” rice milk and peanut butter. It looked like vomit, and it tasted similarly. The first day was rough.

Luckily, my vegan experience at the Deece improved vastly over the following three weeks. I ventured into forbidden territory, the stir fry station, to discover my salvation. The first meal I cooked in the station— tofu, tempeh, onion and spinach in water; hot sauce, jerk seasoning, salt and pepper—was awe-inspiring. Except for tempeh, which tasted like dog biscuit. I may just miss my dog. But also tempeh has an odd texture that I find displeasing.

Throughout my Deece vegan experimentation, there were several highlights. The Deece made a vegetable stir-fry that was absurdly good. Another day, they had an amazing tomato and sweet potato puree soup. One week, the Deece consistently had incredible long grain rice. I was full and happy after my vegan meals. Who knew veganism at the Deece could be good living?

As someone living in senior housing and forced to pay for her own groceries (typically ice cream drumsticks and bacon), I can assure you Deece diners  that you are extremely lucky to have such a plethora of vegetables at your fingertips. The food ACDC serves is frequently good, do not get me wrong, but you can always make something good tasting and healthy at the stir fry station. Take a post there, and never leave. Whenever I cooked, my meal was always hot and amazing. Despite popular sentiment, vegan food does not have to be poor tasting. Ask anyone living in Ferry: The unanimous response is “dinner is amazing.”

Vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, potatoes, beans, rice—these foods are essential, and inherently good tasting. Throw some in a pan, throw some sauce in, some spices. Eat. Enjoy. You can love your meals, even at the Deece. Stop whining about the “lack of options.” You are being lazy. Admittedly, the lines by the stir fry stations were sometimes obscene. Go to the Deece at five. Or just wait your turn and spend your time eyeing the sweaty athletes with ice packs. These days at the Deece are precious.

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