My spring fast this year was spiritual. People usually expect fasting to reflect a believer’s intention to inch closer to the beyond, God, in accordance to what many, including professor Ori Soltes, would call the “divine sacer.”
I have a life philosophy that revolves somewhat around this understanding: People need sustenance. In one’s spiritual and emotional life, such sustenance can come in the form of love drawn from friends, family, hobbies and a personal connection with whatever you perceive God to be.
Physical life runs parallel to this intangible one, with food acting as fuel and nourishment. This may be a simple way of categorizing physical and spiritual existence — though I doubt that one could completely separate the two — but it certainly helps me live every day happily and healthily.
Restricting your diet is a way to find beauty in different health sources. Everyone is different, and finding a dietary plan that works for both your physical and mental health can be challenging and requires continuous adjustment. Just as human beings are ephemeral, so are their taste buds’ and bodies’ reactions to different foods.
I consider veganism as the most classic of all dietary restrictions. Once you go vegan, you can thrive in any special diet. After I conquered a vegan diet for the entirety of Lent last year, I felt that any dietary restrictive plan could be achieved. My experiences with the Paleo diet obviously taught me otherwise.
I speak on this specifically, because the vegan diet is particularly hard for people who have never restricted their diets otherwise. There are many reasons for someone to want to become vegan, different definitions and variations in adherence: A friend of mine from high school refuses even to use animal-based soaps or local honey, whereas some other vegan friends occasionally indulge in chicken nuggets. These personal examples should serve to show you how labeling rarely completes a picture.
My vegan experience at Georgetown was initially quite abysmal. It all happened before the days of Subway and Salad Creations additions to the meal plan, so my vegan Grab ‘n’ Go options were pretty limited, and hummus on a sundried tomato bagel at Einstein Bros. Bagels ended up serving as the only suitable daily snack.
Luckily — and I cannot stress this enough — food service workers at Georgetown are amazing. Friendly and kind, they generally want to help you in any way they can. Frankie at Einstein’s always remembered my vegan diet after chatting about it one day during closing time; the guys at the Grab ‘n’ Go used to keep a jug of almond milk in the back for me to blend with cereal — just because I asked. I do not know how Georgetown finds such a range of quality individuals, but sometimes I wish that my professors were as concerned about my health as they are about the integrity of my work.
Additionally, resources exist at Georgetown for students trying to go vegan or vegetarian. A student-run group called Animalia sponsors a mentorship program that helps students pursue their dietary and lifestyle goals. My stint as a vegan only lasted 40 days, so I spoke with Aine Boyle (SFS ’18), former vice president and current treasurer of Animalia, for more insights. Boyle wants to help students understand Animalia’s work as well as paths to long-term veganism at Georgetown.
What does the mentorship program look like?
Our vegan and vegetarian mentorship program is new as of this year. We match students up based on their reasons for going vegan or vegetarian. The main three reasons are health, animal ethics and environmental, so the member that reflects you the most becomes your mentor. Mentors and mentees cook dinner together, give food, recipe and multivitamin recommendations and much more.
Where do you usually go shopping?
I shop just about everywhere. I love good deals, so I like to go to Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods bulk bins and Safeway depending on what I am looking for. Weekday lunches are often Trader Joe’s vegan frozen meals.
Would you say it is hard to go shopping? Do you like the new GUTS bus route on Saturday?
I have a car, though the GUTS bus is great — I might even consider using that instead.
What are the biggest challenges of being a vegan on campus?
Being a freshman and eating at Leo’s, but that is the struggle for most Georgetown students. Leo’s in general, vegan or not vegan, is not great. Free events are hard and even environmental events tend to lack vegan food — which is quite confusing. You pay tuition just like any other student, but you do not get to enjoy the full benefits that come with it. Georgetown claims to be “super sustainable” but fails to ensure that students who are trying to be sustainable have the options they need.
Nina Young is a junior in the College. BAKE MY DAY appears every other Friday.